Health Systems Leapfrogging in Emerging Economies

One of the major and growing challenges facing emerging economies is how they can make their health systems sustainable. As they try to catch up with more advanced health systems, they often replicate the path followed by developed economies. However, in doing so, they risk making avoidable mistakes and finding themselves in financially untenable situations. For Nigeria, for example, to catch up with the same number of doctors per capita of the OECD economies, it would need 12 times as many doctors by 2030, requiring 10 times current annual Nigerian public health spending or 300 years with existing training infrastructure.Emerging economies face two routes: the familiar, but long, expensive and unsustainable path of developed economies, or a shortcut that leads to a sustainable future.

The second path seems the more suitable one. They have fewer impediments to change than developed economies: fewer sunk costs of existing infrastructure and equipment, lower fixed costs from building overcapacity, weaker vested interest. They also have disruptive innovations – be they technology, business models or behavioural change – at their disposal that were not previously evident or possible for developed economies.This three-year initiative aims to identify, develop and catalyse solutions that can help emerging economies find an ideal health system quickly, cost-effectively and at scale by avoiding the problems encountered by advanced economies.

Developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, the first report of this initiative describes the challenge and the opportunity for emerging economies by outlining a vision for health systems and introducing the concept of “leapfrogging” as an approach to achieve that vision.The second report, From Concept to Scale-Up and System Transformation, outlines the factors that make the concept of leapfrogging work.

30 June 2014