International health links: an evaluation of partnerships between health-care organizations in the UK and developing countries

Trop Doct. 2006 Jul;36(3):149-54. doi: 10.1258/004947506777978181.


Increasingly, international health links are evolving between UK health-care institutions and those in developing countries, the core aims of which are to seek the transfer of ideas, knowledge, skills and training. This study aimed to evaluate established health links, what constitutes them and how they are supported. Benefits and challenges associated with the links, as perceived both by link coordinators in the UK and their overseas partners, were explored. Fourteen links between health-care organizations in the UK and those in developing countries were identified and interviews were successfully conducted with 22 link coordinators: 13 in the UK and nine in developing countries. The interviews indicated that health links offer mutual benefits to both partners in terms of shared skills and the promotion of global awareness. Links can act as important catalysts; stimulating increases in institutional capacity for research and training. They provide opportunities for personal and professional development of staff and promote the development of friendships and supportive networks between diverse communities. Many of the health links showed signs of evolving from uniprofessional links between individual institutions into broader, multidisciplinary community partnerships. The main challenges facing health links arise from cultural differences, funding problems, communication difficulties and bureaucracy. There was broad agreement that greater recognition of the value and importance of health links by the NHS and closer collaboration between government departments to provide support and resources could promote wider and more effective link partnerships.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom