Partners In Health’s U.S. Public Health Accompaniment Unit

PIH is supporting pandemic response across the U.S. 

Partners In Health launched the United States Public Health Accompaniment Unit (USPHAU) in May 2020 to assist states, cities and communities build a more equitable and comprehensive public health response to COVID-19.

The USPHAU grew out of PIH’s 30-plus year track record of fighting epidemics and strengthening health systems around the world, and PIH’s early partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to create the country’s first statewide contact tracing program.  After the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative launched in early April 2020, other states and jurisdictions began to seek PIH’s assistance in creating programs of their own, and through the multi-million-dollar investment by The Audacious Project, the U.S. Public Health Accompaniment Unit was born. 

Since its creation, the USPHAU has embedded staff in 16 jurisdictions across the country to strengthen the public health response against COVID-19. From Navajo Nation to Newark, New Jersey, the USPHAU has:

  • Accelerated the creation of contact tracing programs;
  • Ensured those programs were well-integrated with testing and care resource coordination that allows for the provision of resources such as food and housing assistance for safe isolation and quarantine;
  • Developed and trained stronger community health workforces;
  • Worked with jurisdictions and communities to establish equitable vaccine planning, communication and distribution;
  • Brought a relentless commitment to equity to each pillar of work.

In addition, we have convened partners and public health professionals across the country for strategic problem solving and best-practice sharing throughout this ever-evolving pandemic. Through our Learning Collaborative, webinars, leadership roundtables and a digital resource library, the USPHAU has joined 224 members across 117 organizations since May 2020.

Chicago, IL

In the Chicago region, we are convening and supporting the Chicagoland Vaccine Partnerships Corps, a consortium of more than 100 multi-sector organizations, to help increase community understanding of and access to vaccines. We developed and launched a Speakers Bureau who serve as resources for community-based organizations and grassroots organizations offering vaccine education, town halls, and staff trainings. These trusted messengers receive training on how to address community questions and hesitancy through open dialogue.

Cook County, IL

In Cook County, where COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Latinx and Black communities, we supported the county public health department to strengthen existing health systems, engage local communities, and promote equity across all phases of vaccine rollout, and we supported isolation and quarantine through strengthening care resource coordination efforts.

Fulton County, GA

Since June 2020, we have partnered with the Fulton County Board of Health and CORE to provide guidance on strategy and operations in case investigation, contact tracing, care resource coordination, and home-based testing initiatives. We trained a cohort of field staff to conduct home visits to cases and contacts who could not be reached by contact tracers to ensure they have the food, personal protective equipment, and hygiene supplies they need to safely isolate. We are also supporting partners in planning for equitable vaccine rollout and developing a school-based testing program in Atlanta public schools.


We began working with the Illinois Department of Health in May 2020 when the Governor’s office requested help after seeing the success of PIH’s contact tracing work in Massachusetts. Since then, we have deepened our work, sharing best practices for care resource coordination, scaling and refining contact tracing across the state, and ensuring equitable vaccine distribution.

Immokalee, FL

We are working with our partners in Immokalee to hire and train community health promoters who conduct household visits to counsel on COVID-19 prevention, testing, transmission, symptoms, isolation, and quarantine, and to connect individuals to resources that address their basic needs. Through these partnerships, we have connected the migrant farmworkers community to vital social supports, including cash transfers for food, utilities, and housing assistance for workers who tested positive for COVID-19. We also collaborated with local partners to host mobile testing events in residential areas, community centers, and  with  nearby trusted community organizations.

Montgomery, AL

We are partnering with the city of Montgomery and community leaders to launch a new community health worker program, help open a crisis center for unhoused people with COVID-19, and build a communications campaign to address vaccine hesitancy and access. We are also supporting the Mayor’s office in mapping vaccination sites to identify gaps in services and direct resources to ensure higher vaccination rates, promote a free rides programs for individuals with transportation barriers to vaccine sites, and continue engaging with a coalition of local community partners in a “Get Out the Vax” community mobilization campaign.

Navajo Nation

In partnership with Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment (COPE), we are training and organizing 375+ contact tracers across Navajo Nation. This team assists those in quarantine and isolation access resources like food, water, transport, or medicine as needed. We also helped to develop linguistically and culturally informed training guides and contact tracing workflows, and provided career development opportunities for students at a local public tribal college.

Newark, NJ

Since April 2020, we have supported the city to monitor and analyze test positivity rates, inform reopening and response policies, and stand up a Care Resource Coordination team to provide support to individuals in isolation and quarantine. We helped the city estimate COVID-19 workforce needs, synthesize equity-driven metrics, and establish a real-time information management system for contact tracing and case investigation. Now, we are supporting the city’s efforts to expand vaccination and bring vaccines directly to residents through static and pop-up sites.

North Carolina

Since May 2020, we have partnered with Community Care of North Carolina to stand up and strengthen the contract tracing and case investigation workforce, while also helping inform state-level guidance to local health departments in partnership with North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services. We have also supported NCDHHS care resource coordination efforts, which have reached over 385,000 individuals via community health workers and directly provided social supports to over 38,000 households. Now, we’re partnering with the state to improve vaccine equity with a continued focus on historically marginalized populations and farmworkers.

Pima County

We support a number of Pima County Health Department ​initiatives, ​including contact tracing, care coordination, and ​community engagement. We also perform data analysis to ​help ​guide decision making and inform local policy​, as well as advise on efforts to decentralize vaccine delivery. In collaboration with local CBOs, we are working to ensure Native Americans / Alaska Natives, communities of color, refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, migrants, and individuals experiencing homelessness are all able to get vaccinated. To date, the Care Resource Coordination program has assisted more than 10,000 community members.

New Orleans, LA

We provide strategy and operational support to our partners at CORE to deploy community-based mobile testing units, rotating “static” testing units, and school-based testing units. We support our partners at these sites with resource coordination and evaluating the impact of a new social needs screen tool for individuals who get tested. We are also partnering with CORE to help the New Orleans Department of Public Health to codify and share best practices for an equitable pandemic response, as well as lessons learned in vaccine rollout.

New Bedford, MA

In New Bedford, we are supporting the City’s community vaccination program by focusing on specific segments of the local population, utilizing low-tech tools and local knowledge to reach and assist New Bedford residents who are less likely to receive the vaccine because of barriers like access to technology and English language proficiency. We are also partnering with the New Bedford Health Department’s leadership team to hire, train, and mentor a contact tracer, an epidemiologist, and multilingual community liaisons.
US PHAU country map

Our 16 locations:

  • Chicago, IL
  • The State of Illinois
  • Cook County, IL
  • Fulton County, GA
  • Immokalee, FL
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Navajo Nation
  • Newark, NJ
  • The State of North Carolina
  • Pima County, AZ
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New Bedford, MA

U.S. COVID-19 Resources

Find a small subset of materials from PIH's COVID-19 work in the U.S. here

Resources Here

Ensuring an equity-centered COVID-19 response

Health care in the U.S. today is treated as a commodity, rather than a human right. Inequities in access to care, the quality of care, and health outcomes are rooted in systemic racism and compounded by decades of disinvestment in public health.    

When COVID-19 hit the U.S. in early 2020, these inequities were laid bare, and the devastating consequences of our fragmented health system became even more apparent. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people were infected and dying at two to three times the rate of whites.  

PIH believes that disproportionate suffering demands disproportionate support. The USPHAU prioritizes partnering with populations that lack sufficient local resources and support, including immigrants, farmworkers, and jurisdictions with large Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations.  

The three pillars of the USPHAU's work

Three pillars anchor all of our efforts, whether that work is ensuring farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida have food and rent money to quarantine when sick; convening community members to plan for equitable vaccine distribution; or documenting and advocating for the investments required to build a national community health workforce.

Three pillars of work
Three pillars
Progressive policy
Document learnings and convene
Accompany government

Accompany and advise

  • Technical advising and accompaniment

    The USPHAU is committed to walking shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to stop COVID-19 while also building a more robust public health infrastructure to last well beyond this pandemic. Our technical advising services are always guided by the principles of solidarity, and they vary depending on the needs of our partners and members of the communities in which we work. The USPHAU seeks to use this unique moment to reimagine and construct a more just and responsive public health system that better serves all people across the country.   

    As of January 2021, PIH has embedded staff in 16 jurisdictions:  

    • States: Ohio; North Carolina; Connecticut; and Illinois 
    • Counties: Fulton County, GA; Cook County, IL; Franklin County, OH; and Pima County, AZ 
    • Cities: Newark, NJ; Montgomery, AL; Chicago, IL; New Bedford, MA; New Orleans, LA; and Toronto, Canada 
    • Communities: Immokalee, FL  
    • Nations: Navajo Nation 

Convene and capture knowledge

  • U.S. Learning Collaborative and Resource Library

    The Learning Collaborative meets partners where they are to find solutions among implementers through ongoing resource-sharing, dialogue, and peer learning, ultimately bringing together public health departments, community-based organizations, health care organizations, and more. In its first four months, members from 30 states connected with peers leading COVID-19 response efforts across the U.S. 

    The Learning Collaborative hosts periodic Learning Series, webinars, and interactive sessions to share tools and resources on emerging priorities in the pandemic response. Sessions encourage collaborative learning as states, cities, and community organizations across the U.S. sprint to strengthen the public health responses to COVID-19. 

    The Resource Library is a collection of materials intended to capture rapidly emerging lessons from PIH and our partners. With a focus on tools and recommendations to support swift implementation, we aim to share practical, adaptable information with frontline leaders and practitioners. Access to PIH's available resources here.

    Apply here for membership to the Learning Collaborative

Advocate and influence

  • National policy and advocacy

    The USPHAU promotes policies that center on equity in pandemic response. It joins with allies in building coalitions to strengthen national response and funding.   

    As of January 2021, USPHAU policy and advocacy has focused on four areas:  

    • Expanding funding for testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation; 
    • Increasing social supports and care resource coordination in congregate settings and for essential workers; 
    • Developing equitable vaccine distribution plans; 
    • Building a community-based national public health workforce. 

    Inspired by its long-term vision, the USPHAU advocates for progressive policy change and building the movement for the right to health and social justice in the United States. 

A robust public health response to stop the pandemic

No single measure can stop a pandemic. A full, integrated public health response is essential to control COVID-19 and strengthen our ability to respond to future outbreaks. 

COVID Cascade

Building a full public health response to stop COVID-19

Community Protection 

Mitigation strategies including mask wearing, social distancing, safe workspaces, and targeted closures are proven to work and are important pillars in preventing COVID-19 transmission. 


More widespread testing is critical to a more effective COVID-19 response, as it allows for faster linkages to care, contact tracing, and connections to resources for supported isolation. Testing and rapid access to results must be made accessible to all, regardless of geography, income, or race. 

Case Investigation & Contact Tracing 

Robust contact tracing that facilitates safe quarantine breaks chains of transmission of COVID-19, stops the spread, and saves lives. A comprehensive contact tracing program includes case investigation, identifying known exposed contacts, and providing support for both positive cases and exposed individuals. This must be a continued priority as part of a comprehensive public health response to COVID-19. 

Supported Isolation & Quarantine 

The success of contact tracing hinges on the ability of cases and contacts to safely isolate and quarantine. Without resources to ensure everyone can do so safely, people may be forced to choose between meeting basic needs and quarantining, perpetuating community transmission among the most vulnerable. Through care resource coordination, jurisdictions can address the social determinants of health and reduce disparities currently exacerbated by fragmented social service ecosystems. 


Safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool for protecting individuals and ending the pandemic. But vaccines without a fair distribution system that prioritizes people most at risk of dying will have limited impact and fuel the inequities that have become starkly apparent through the pandemic. We must build a system now for rapid, widespread, and equitable vaccine distribution, integrated as part of a comprehensive public health response. 

More resources on these pillars and other strategies to stop COVID-19 are available on our Resource Library.

Learning Collaborative

The U.S. Learning Collaborative on Public Health Responses to COVID-19 is for public health leaders, front-line staff and their partners who are building the testing, contact tracing, and social support systems needed to stop the pandemic.

With a focus on the most vulnerable communities, our virtual community of practice shares technical resources, strategies, best practices, and more.

Apply Now