From its inception, PATH has always aimed to be a different kind of global health organization.

Founded in 1977 by three researchers, PATH works to advance health equity, not only through innovation but also collaboration with local and global experts from various industries. PATH and its partners, together with local governments, have developed sustainable solutions for nearly five decades.

Their work started with reproductive health, but quickly expanded to include a vast swath of other health areas – including malaria, non-communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, cancer, primary health care and more – now in 70 countries. In the last few years, they’ve added mental health to their roster as well.

Mental health was a natural addition for an organization focused on equity. According to published studies, mental and addictive disorders affect more than 1 billion people globally, yet 70 percent of those who need mental health care lack access. Molly Guy, a senior program officer in PATH’s Noncommunicable Diseases group, says that lack of access exists for many reasons, including stigma, trained mental health-care worker shortages, lack of access to training, lack of screening services, and low prioritization. And, through PATH’s work in various communities, Guy says they’ve seen how a person’s mental health can strongly affect their ability to stay on treatment regimens or seek care for other health issues.

Despite these needs, mental health care is severely underfunded at the global and local levels. According to WHO, global funding for mental health has never exceeded more than 1 percent of all development assistance for health and governments, on average, spend only 2 percent of their health budgets on mental health.

Given their footprint in so many communities around the world, their strength in integration and increasing access to non-communicable disease services, PATH is well-positioned to fill some of those gaps and to improve primary care for the whole person.

Read the full article about PATH by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.