Q: What does Children’s HeartLink do?
A: Children’s HeartLink trains and empowers medical teams in underserved parts of the world to diagnose and treat children with heart disease.
Q: Where does Children’s HeartLink work?
A: Children’s HeartLink supports partner hospitals in six countries: Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. Our headquarters are in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Q: How long has Children’s HeartLink been in operation?
A: Children's HeartLink was founded in 1969.
Q: How is Children’s HeartLink funded?
A: Children’s HeartLink receives generous support from corporations, foundations and individual donors, and from special events.
Q: How common is congenital heart disease? Why is it a global health concern?
A: Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect. About one in 100 children are born with a heart defect, and 90 percent of these children live where there is inadequate medical care.
Without treatment, children face a shortened lifespan or a diminished quality of life. Children are not the only ones who suffer. Families and communities bear an economic burden due in part to the cost of caring for the child, but also due to the child’s depleted earning potential if he or she reaches adulthood.
Q: How has Children’s HeartLink been successful? What difference have you made?
A: Last year our medical volunteers trained over 1,400 doctors and nurses, and 73,000 patient visits, surgeries and procedures were provided by our partner hospitals.
Children's HeartLink works with medical volunteers from some of the finest institutions in the world to train doctors and nurses in the countries where we work. After these local leaders advance their skills and programs, they join the ranks of medical volunteers, training more doctors and nurses throughout the region. The beauty of this approach is both its reach and lasting impact.
Q: How does Children’s HeartLink select its partner hospitals?
A: Before developing a memorandum of understanding with a new partner hospital, we team up with a small group of expert medical volunteers to conduct a thorough assessment of staff and facilities, as well as the regional and government or political environment. We look for partner hospitals that we believe can successfully advance through our system of phased support, which is focused on creating sustainable regional centers of excellence in pediatric cardiac care and training.
An ideal candidate for a partner hospital has an established pediatric cardiac program, dedicated pediatric cardiac medical specialists and a surgical volume of at least 100 pediatric cases per year. We also evaluate the hospital’s willingness and ability to provide funding for families who cannot afford to pay for treatment.
Q: How does Children’s HeartLink find and select medical volunteers?
A: Children’s HeartLink has established a broad network within the global pediatric cardiac community. The organization has been fortunate to have a loyal, deep roster of medical volunteers who donate their vacation time to work at our partner sites.
Since Children’s HeartLink is focused on training and mentoring, we look for pediatric cardiac care specialists who are highly skilled, experienced and recognized by their peers as outstanding in their field. Many have experience working in teaching hospitals and are skilled at both didactic and experiential teaching.
Children’s HeartLink strives to match volunteers, either as a team or as individual consultants, with a specific partner hospital. Repeated interactions with the same volunteers help foster the personal relationships that are so important to successful learning and professional growth.
Q: Does Children’s HeartLink plan to expand to other countries?
A: To make the best use of available resources, Children’s HeartLink’s current strategy is to expand our support within existing partner relationships, or within countries where the organization is currently active. However, Children’s HeartLink recognizes the widespread global need for improved and expanded pediatric cardiac care and is always open to exploring collaborations with potential partners in countries in which we do not currently work.
Q: Why doesn’t Children’s HeartLink work in Africa?
A: For several years Children’s HeartLink enjoyed a strong partnership with Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Our work there focused mostly on critical care nurse training and development. The organization had also previously worked with Nairobi Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.
The main goal of Children’s HeartLink’s program approach, which seeks to optimize the organization’s available resources, is to build upon the foundation and strengths of existing pediatric cardiac programs as a way to help significantly more children in as short a timeframe as possible. By delivering targeted, focused support to an existing program, Children’s HeartLink can accelerate that program’s learning and development curve. The sad fact is that in some regions, like Sub-Saharan Africa, there are simply not many pediatric cardiac programs with dedicated pediatric specialists who could benefit from our current delivery model. Children’s HeartLink is aware of the tremendous need in Africa, and the organization is currently exploring some collaborative approaches with other organizations, as well as the possibility of developing our own alternative approaches, which may enable additional assistance in this region.
Q: How is Children’s HeartLink unique?
A: Children’s HeartLink is unique because it is not an organization focused on delivering “medical missions.” The goal of our partnering approach is to transfer knowledge—increasing, reinforcing and embedding new cardiac care techniques and skills, and new organizational capabilities.
Q: Does Children's HeartLink provide programs in the United States?
A: No, not at this time. The United States is fortunate to have a large number of skilled pediatric cardiac specialists and some of the best children’s heart programs in the world. Providing training and consultation to improve and expand pediatric cardiac resources in other countries is where Children’s HeartLink’s core expertise lies.
Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, affecting one in 100 children. Only one in 10 children has access to care.
Our Vision: Children around the world have access to high-quality heart care.
Our Mission: To save the lives of children with heart disease, we partner with organizations to train medical teams, provide education and transform health care in underserved parts of the world.