Children’s HeartLink (CHL) is committed to facilitating high-quality pediatric care in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) through implementing a capacity-building model that pairs volunteer pediatric cardiac care teams from leading teaching and research hospitals in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. with existing pediatric cardiac care centers in LMICs. The purpose of the pairing approach is to foster an on-going capacity-building relationship between the two centers. While Children’s HeartLink contributes to improved surgical care for congenital heart disease in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam, the CHL board has recently tasked CHL headquarters with drastically expanding CHL’s work.
For this project, our team’s objective was to rapidly assess CHL’s current model and to develop recommendations to support scaling. To address CHL’s request, we reviewed relevant literature and interviewed 27 CHL staff and subject matter experts. When interviewing CHL staff, volunteers, and partners, START explored what was working well and what was not working well with the current model. The assessment resulted in the identification of facilitators, barriers, and bottlenecks for successful implementation. Based on the identified barriers and facilitators, START conducted a literature review, and identified and interviewed content experts to explore potential recommendations and to validate START team assumptions. The work culminated in a presentation of operational and strategic recommendations to support Children’s HeartLink to scale their program, including resources and tools to support implementation, as well as a standardized approach for evaluating partner hospital growth.