Partners In Health’s US 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 April 2020 to assist states, cities and communities in building comprehensive public health responses 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 US Public Health Accompaniment Unit was born. 

Since its creation, the US Public Health Accompaniment Unit has embedded staff in 11 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 efforts that allow for the provision of resources for safe isolation and quarantine; developed and trained stronger community health workforces; and brought a relentless commitment to equity to each pillar of work. With the addition of our Learning Collaborative platform that seeks to bring together a broader network of public health and community leaders, the USPHAU has joined with 133 partners since May 2020, serving a combined population of 92 million people.  

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, indigenous peoples, and jurisdictions with large Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations. PIH strives for an equity-centered response in every aspect of our work. 

The three pillars of 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 experts 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

Through general technical advising services and comprehensive implementation accompaniment, the USPHAU is accompanying departments of public health and community partners to strengthen their responses to COVID-19. Though the scope and intensity of our technical advisory services varies according to our partners' needs, the US Public Health Accompaniment Unit is committed to walking shoulder to shoulder with partners as they fight to stop COVID-19. Working as both strategic advisers and implementation and operations partners while engaging with “in-the-weeds” issues faced by front-line providers, we are guided by the principles of solidarity and a commitment to open-ended partnership with a comprehensive system lens, utilizing this unique moment to reimagine the U.S. public health system. 

As of December 2020, PIH has embedded staff in 11 jurisdictions: 

  • States: Ohio; North Carolina; and Illinois
  • Counties: Fulton County, GA and Pima County, AZ
  • Cities: Newark, NJ; Montgomery, AL; and Chicago, IL
  • Communities: Immokalee, FL and Toronto, Canada
  • Nations: Navajo Nation

The Learning Collaborative focuses on pragmatic solidarity 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 topics including contact tracing, care resource coordination, and vaccines. Sessions encourage collaborative learning as states, cities, and community organizations across the U.S. sprint to stand up 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 rapid implementation, we aim to share practical, adaptable information with frontline leaders and practitioners. Access PIH's available resources here.

Apply here for membership to the Learning Collaborative

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 December 2020, USPHAU policy and advocacy has focused on four areas: 

  • Expanded funding for testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation
  • Social supports and care resource coordination in congregate setting and for essential workers
  • Equitable vaccine distribution
  • Building a community-based national public health workforce

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

Building a full public health response to stop COVID

No one activity can stop a pandemic. A full, integrated public health response that includes the pillars outlined below 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

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