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Cardboard boxes: How Finland achieved one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world

Published: Monday, June 10 2013 3:49 p.m. MDT

A box with a mattress in the bottom is part of a starter care kit for newborn babies in Finland.

Milla Kontkanen, BBC

For the past 75 years, Finland has provided expectant women with a sort of baby starter kit. The tradition, which dates back to the 1930's, gives all babies, regardless of their socio-economic background, an equal start at life, according to BBC reporter Helena Lee.

The maternity package, which comes in a large box, "contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress. With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes the baby's first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box's four cardboard walls," reported Lee.

Families are given a choice between taking the box or receiving a cash grant of 140 euros. Ninety-five percent opt for the box, according to Lee.

In order to qualify for the kit, expectant mothers must visit with an approved medical provider before their fourth month of pregnancy. In the 1930s, this requirement was put in place to help steer the Finnish people towards the nascent welfare state, according to Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela — the social insurance institution of Finland.

Lee reports that some experts attribute Finland's low infant mortality rate to the baby starter kits.

mwhite@deseretnews.com

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