Health Systems Leapfrogging: From Concept to Scale-Up and System Transformation

By Emre Ozcan and Mathieu Lamiaux

For emerging economies, emulating the development paths of mature health systems is neither feasible nor desirable. There are tremendous challenges—and opportunities—as these countries ramp up investment in health care in the years ahead. Most important, emerging economies clearly see that health is not a cost center. Rather, investments in health will help economies grow with equity, strengthen social stability, increase people’s well-being, and help them live with dignity. (Click here for a video on the transformation of health systems in emerging economies.)

At the same time, the rise of noncommunicable diseases and the persistence of communicable ones—such as, recently, Ebola—highlight the need for emerging economies to invest in their health systems. Quick, narrow, and funneled solutions need to be replaced by visionary, long-term thinking, and systematic approaches need to be coupled with collaboration between multiple stakeholders to move nascent or maturing health systems toward the ideal. One emerging solution, “leapfrogging,” is a transformative approach to development that can empower emerging economies to achieve their ideal.

In the second of our three-year partnership with the World Economic Forum, BCG is working with a global consortium to explore health systems leapfrogging in greater depth and to develop strategies that can ensure that developing economies are financially sustainable and can deliver high-quality, cost-effective, and accessible care.

Building on the groundwork laid during the first year of the partnership, our latest report focuses on how leapfrogging works and the reasons to be optimistic about its viability as a strategy. Specifically, the last year has provided opportunities to begin testing the initiative’s findings and recommendations in Nigeria and the Republic of South Africa, two emerging economies at different stages of health system development, each with diverse challenges and stakeholders. The results thus far—at the pilot stage—are encouraging.