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 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 US Public Health Accompaniment Unit was born. 

Since its creation, the USPHAU has embedded staff in 15 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 with more than 130 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, and jurisdictions with large Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations.  

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 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

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; and Pima County, AZ 
  • Cities: Newark, NJ; Montgomery, AL; Chicago, IL; New Bedford, MA; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; and Toronto, Canada 
  • Communities: Immokalee, FL  
  • Nations: Navajo Nation 

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 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 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, 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

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