Community Partners International's (CPI) story began in 1989 when a young American doctor, Ben Brown, visited the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot on the Thailand-Myanmar border to help provide health care for refugees fleeing from decades of civil war in Myanmar. On his return home, he founded Planet Care, a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to supporting health care for refugees from Myanmar in Thailand. He was soon joined by Bob Condon, founder of a Berkeley-based investment firm and a CPI Board Emeritus, who helped him to grow the organization.
In 1998, Dr. Tom Lee accompanied his friend Dr. Ben Brown to visit the Thailand-Myanmar border. During this trip, Dr. Lee witnessed the urgent need to support health services for the hundreds of thousands of people caught up in protracted civil conflict in Myanmar. Inspired by Planet Care's example, Dr. Lee founded the U.S. nonprofit the Global Health Access Program (GHAP) with three U.S. colleagues.
Basing operations on Myanmar's eastern border, GHAP worked to strengthen community-based health organizations providing lifesaving health care to conflict-affected communities in eastern Myanmar. GHAP worked with these partners to develop a mobile health care model that could meet the needs of underserved communities dispersed across remote and rugged terrain with little or no transport infrastructure, and often displaced by conflict. This model relied heavily on 'backpack' health workers who could travel on foot between communities providing lifesaving care, and could accompany them even if they were displaced.
In 2008, when Cyclone Nargis devastated Ayeyarwady Region in southwest Myanmar, GHAP established a first staff presence in Myanmar to support cyclone relief efforts.
After many years of close cooperation, GHAP and Planet Care merged in 2006. In 2011, the merged organization changed its name to Community Partners International (CPI).
From 2011, as the political transition opened up greater operating space, CPI gradually expanded its presence in Myanmar. In 2014, CPI signed its first Memorandum of Understanding with the Myanmar Ministry of Health & Sports (MoHS), helping to formalize the organization's operations.
Today, CPI is active in most of Myanmar's states and regions. As ceasefires and a nascent peace process bring greater stability to many parts of Myanmar, CPI is working to support dialogue and cooperation between ethnic and community-based heath organizations and the MoHS around shared interests in health. CPI is committed to supporting the push to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, ensuring that every person in Myanmar receives the health services they need, of a quality that improves their health,, regardless of their ability to pay, and at a cost that does not put people using the services at risk of financial harm.
In 2016, CPI began supporting local partners in southern Bangladesh to provide services and essential supplies to refugees and migrants from Myanmar in camps and makeshift settlements in Cox's Bazar.