How Finland’s 78-year-old cardboard crib scheme has attracted the interest of UK and US health professionals and parents
Out of the Box Thinking: the cardboard crib, a feature of Finnish life for 78 years that could be commonplace in the UK and the USA. Image by Ohla Ukhal (via Shutterstock).
For progressive social policies, many people cite The Nordic Model as an exemplar of best practice. It is one with a strong welfare state and a supportive education system. Their cradle to grave provision is the envy of most countries. In the last few years, there is one programme that has been lauded by UK and US health professionals: Finland’s cardboard crib scheme.
Finland’s cardboard cribs have been part of the country’s welfare state since 1938: ten years before the UK’s National Health Service was formed. All Finnish mothers are issued with a baby box for each child. Besides being a temporary bed for infants, the boxes include 50 baby items. These include blankets, baby clothes, cloth nappies, and thermometers. The scheme was launched 78 years ago when nearly 10% of newborns died within a year after birth.
Their impact on infant mortality was dramatic with a marked drop in death rates. Originally for less well-off parents, the cardboard cribs were rolled out to all families. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the decline in death rates continued. This was helped by a nationwide health insurance scheme and a network of hospitals.
The Finnish scheme has attracted interest in London where one hospital has introduced Nordic cardboard cribs on a trial basis. In Minnesota, a similar scheme is in place for low-income families. Once emptied of baby items, the cardboard crib offers an alternative bed to the parents’ bed. So far, over 600 London families have benefited from a scheme at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital. The Imperial College Hospital NHS Clinical Commissioning Group works in cooperation with The Baby Box Company.
In spite of the hubbub on the internet, a professor at Bournemouth University, Colin Pritchard is unconvinced. He thinks the benefits are marginal and that aiming to alleviate poverty, encouraging parents to stop smoking, and improved education offer lasting benefits.