An Evidence-based Contact Tracing Program Off the Ground in Days


Tracing Health


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a massive need for contact tracing programs. PHI responded quickly, launching its Tracing Health program and hiring contact tracing teams that made an immediate impact in some of the nation's hardest hit regions.

1K+ job applications received in less than a week

90%+ of contact tracers hired were bilingual or multilingual

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing is a critical tool for finding community members who may need support and information to help them stay at home and to slow transmission, and to help counties assess readiness to re-open. Successful contact tracing depends on quickly assembling a ready workforce of trained workers—and establishing a trusting bond with vulnerable community members who may be worried about the impact of isolation and illness on themselves and their abilities to care for their families.

PHI launched our Tracing Health contact tracing program in Washington County, Oregon, where we partnered on the ground with the Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI). OPHI’s strong relationship with local community organizations and emphasis on equity, coupled with PHI’s powerhouse operational infrastructure and in-house expertise are resulting in rapid implementation of an evidence-based effort that community members can trust.

The Tracing Health program emphasizes skill and prioritizes hiring county residents, bilingual speakers and members of highly impacted communities. But speed was also critical for this urgent effort.

One business day after PHI signed a contract for the Washington County work the job listings were posted on the PHI website. Within six workdays more than 1,000 people had applied and twenty-one job offers had been made. Within two weeks, nearly thirty contact tracers were hired, trained and ready to make their first calls.

Over 90% of the staff hired were bilingual or multilingual (covering six languages in addition to English) and all were residents of the County. Many had experience in public health and social service work, and several were community health workers trained in culturally-specific approaches. Some were experienced professionals re-entering the workforce after recent unemployment, and others were beginning their public health careers. 

The Tracing Health program model involves small teams of contact tracers each working with a Resource Coordinator who can provide people in isolation or quarantine with connections to food banks, mental health services, visiting nurses, and other community programs. The model is designed to be quickly scalable and able to pivot to hotspots.

In addition to contact tracing, data entry, disease surveillance and outbreak investigations, the initiative connects individuals to the resources they need. 

“We want to make sure that those who have been exposed to the virus or fall ill have the support they need to stay home in quarantine. People should know that even if they have been exposed to the virus, their homes, families and employment will still be safe.”
– Marta Induni, PhD, Tracing Health program director for the Public Health Institute

For more information on the launch of the Tracing Health program, see the press release here.

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