Partners In Health Launches Division to Aid United States


Contact Tracing Accompaniment Unit to Focus on Most Vulnerable U.S. Populations, Supporting State and Local Responses to COVID-19

BOSTON — Today Boston-based global health nonprofit Partners In Health (PIH) announced the launch of a new domestic unit to help under-resourced public health entities in the U.S. build and refine COVID-19 contact tracing programs. Today’s announcement marks the first time in more than three-decades the organization has advanced a division focused on U.S. national public health needs.

In response to overwhelming demand for contact tracing expertise from states and municipalities across the nation, PIH’s new 40-person team of implementation and operational leaders, public health and policy experts, physicians, epidemiologists, and more will offer expert guidance and materials, for free.

Called the U.S. Public Health Accompaniment Unit, it will offer three programs.

  • Small teams of experts to embed in departments of health for roughly three months to co-create contact tracing programs.
  • A pool of advisers to provide technical assistance to existing or emerging contact tracing programs.
  •  An open-source, online toolkit and learning collaborative to share best practices, launched by trainers and facilitators.

The aim is to help mount a robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable, as well as to coordinate and harmonize approaches across the country.

PIH CEO Dr. Sheila Davis created the effort in response to requests from leaders in dozens of states and cities, from Newark to North Carolina to the Navajo Nation.

“We are pleased to be able to share what we’ve learned from three decades’ experience doing this work around the world,” says Dr. Davis, “and we’re especially thankful to be able to share those lessons at no cost.”

In April, Partners In Health helped Massachusetts launch the first statewide COVID-19 contact tracing program in the U.S., which has connected with more than 32,000 people so far. Following the program in Massachusetts, PIH has since begun supporting contact tracing programs in New Jersey, Ohio, and North Carolina, and providing lighter-touch advising in California, Minnesota, and Maryland. While PIH works in the Navajo Nation and has worked in Boston, this is the first time it has focused on the U.S. as a whole.

A multi-million dollar investment through The Audacious Project—a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED—is helping to kick start the program.

“Partners In Health has spent decades on the front-line of global health emergencies. Their track record for dealing with some of the deadliest outbreaks in the world positions them to rapidly—and effectively—scale this unprecedented U.S. contact tracing effort,” says Anna Verghese, Executive Director of The Audacious Project at TED. “This initiative is an example of the powerful interventions that The Audacious Project is designed to support, and we are grateful to count Partners In Health amongst the first organizations in our newly-formed COVID-19 Rapid Response cohort.”

Since its founding in Haiti in 1987, Partners In Health has been at the forefront of health interventions in the most marginalized settings around the world, including effective and equitable responses to epidemics of HIV in Rwanda, tuberculosis in Lesotho, cholera in Haiti, and Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The organization strives to bring the fruits of modern medicine to those who need them most.

Contact tracing is frequently cited by public health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization as an essential tool for returning to some kind of normalcy, as countries consider when to reopen economies and loosen social distancing guidelines.

“In the broadest sense, we’re here to say, ‘We’ve got your back,’” says Dr. Davis. “Together, we can care for the most vulnerable and end this epidemic.”


About Partners In Health (PIH)

Founded in 1987 by Dr. Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Partners In Health is a nonprofit social justice organization working to bring the benefits of modern medical science to the most vulnerable communities around the world.

PIH has a documented history of implementing effective health delivery models in partnership with governments and academic institutions, including Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, helping PIH make vital contributions to curbing outbreaks and epidemics in limited-resource settings. Learn more at and