When PATH began working in Thailand in the early 1980s, the HIV/AIDS crisis was just emerging. It was a time of confusion and fear, when the availability of accurate information crucial to the lives of both health care providers and the people they served was scarce. Some of our first projects in Thailand targeted both: We provided HIV-prevention training to factory workers, and we disseminated essential information on the virus and its prevention to health care providers.
Over the next quarter century, PATH became known in Thailand not only for our pioneering work in HIV/AIDS prevention, but also for innovative public-private partnerships to improve services in places where pharmacy staff are the first line of care, for creative and effective use of new media to reach vulnerable adolescents, and for improving health and quality of life for migrants and their families through an integrated approach to prevention of communicable diseases and advancement of reproductive health.
Now, after more than 25 years, we’re celebrating another success in Thailand: our program’s transition to a Thai nongovernmental organization, or TNGO, called path2health. The new, independent organization officially launches on November 1.
Change for the better
Over the years, socioeconomic conditions have improved markedly in some of the countries where PATH works. Further, the pattern and magnitude of the disease burden—that is, the health problems that hold countries back—have changed.
At the same time, the number of talented local people who can plan and implement health programs has increased, and sources of funding for programs to address health problems have changed. In some countries, the national government is now the primary donor. In others, international donors have shifted their focus to funding local organizations, sometimes aided by targeted assistance from international NGOs such as PATH.
When we see these changes taking place, as we have in Thailand, we know it’s time to consider new approaches for the future. In Thailand’s case, that meant looking at transitioning the program to an organization independent of PATH.
In making the decision, we looked for three further conditions:
• Is leadership in place and willing to expand on the impact we’ve had so far?
• Is local funding available to sustain a national organization?
• Are local laws and the sociopolitical culture supportive of a national NGO?
In Thailand, the answer to all three questions is yes.
Extending our vision and mission
At PATH, we’ve long seen the countries we work in as customers—and in turn, we localize our work by engaging staff and partners in those countries. When conditions are right, as they are in Thailand, we are enthusiastic in helping to launch independent NGOs. It’s the best way, we think, to extend our impact on health and development in that country.
So this week we celebrate the launch of path2health, the newest independent Thai NGO. We wish our new colleague organization in global health every success. We know they’ll exceed our expectations as they continue to deliver equity in health to the people of Thailand.