Has Finland’s Simple Baby Boxes Decreased Infant Mortality Rates?

ALAMY

All Finnish parents receive these Baby boxes from the government with every new child. A starter kit that helps the stressed-out parents with their newborns, the box contains clothes, blankets, other necessities, and the box itself can be doubled up as the child’s first bed.

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ALAMY

Where Did It All Start?

This government initiative started off to help Finland achieve lower mortality rates in infants. With all expecting mothers receiving this box from the government, the mortality rates of infants has decreased from 65 deaths for each 1000 children in 1938 to 2.75 (average) deaths per 1000 children in 2015.1

Soon, there were three Finnish fathers who started shipping off these baby boxes to customers all over the world. So much popular is the concept, that there are people in the US and UK already building these baby boxes to supply to customers.

A Simple But Effective Idea

The idea was so

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effective that healthcare providers all over the world have started approaching these social entrepreneurs to spread awareness regarding Baby Box.
The contents of the box often differed to address the local requirements and to keep the baby safe. The box itself enabled prevention of infections out of the parent’s bed. Sometimes, the end objective, as it was in the case of Finland, is to encourage the mothers to keep attending antenatal classes. Others like two South African entrepreneurs, Ernst Hertzog of Action Hero Ventures and marketing executive Frans de Villiers made the box from plastic so that mothers could use it for bathing the baby.

All these approaches were to eventually get the mothers to attend antenatal classes and infact the results found by the Research on Socio-economic Policy Health Group at Stellenbosch University in 2015 were astounding. The Baby Box or the Thula Baba Box actually encouraged mothers to attend clinics especially during their earlier stages of pregnancy. Among other things, the parents were more aware of HIV related issues like HIV positive mother’s death during childbirth and reducing the

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risks of passing on HIV from the mother to the fetus.

In these developing countries where infant mortality is a huge concern, the Baby Box is being adapted fast. To cite an instance, a doctoral student at Harvard University, Karima Ladhani adapted the Finnish Baby Box to be used in South Asia. She had adapted the concept (named it the Barakat Bundle project, Barakat means “blessing” in some regional languages) which is now also being adopted in rural hospital in Jagadiya, India.

This box includes a clean birth kit, that would prevent transmission of infections during or after delivery and even a mosquito net to protect babies from malaria. Low cost life-saving solution, this Baby Box was indeed a “Miracle Box” in disguise.

While the box is making its way into even Canada and Australia, there are others who are not convinced of its powers. Colin Pritchard, a professor at Bournemouth University who has studied child and infant mortality, thinks that box makes some theoretical sense as it provides the baby with basic amenities and place to sleep, but he thinks the long-term

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effects of this is marginal. There are far more serious issues like alleviating poverty, spreading awareness regarding childbirth, stopping parents to be from harmful habits and improving education and antenatal support.

While Baby Boxes do address some of the basic needs of a mother and her child, it certainly would work effectively, when government institutions and healthcare professionals would start addressing the fundamental issues at hand first. While they are being adapted, the governments all over the world also needs to think about effective ways to ensure safe and hygienic childbirth, awareness about infections and improving basic education.