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March 2014

It’s the Thought That Counts

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(3):209-210. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4803

In 1949 the government of Finland began sending boxes to the parents of every newborn child in the country.1 The boxes have been given to every expectant mother in Finland since and now include clothes, diapers, a bib, and other essential supplies. The baby can even sleep in the box itself. The purpose of distributing these boxes is to encourage pregnant women to visit a physician for prenatal care, and it works.2 Finnish mothers seek timely prenatal care at rates exceeding 97%, among the highest rates in Europe.3 Of course, there are other incentives and facilitators besides Finland’s maternity box, but these incentives are typically less generous in Finland than elsewhere.2 Finland’s approach is, however, the most concrete. The arrival of a box filled with baby clothes carries a powerfully tangible sign that the baby is both real and a welcome member of society.