Mail & Guardian
The Finnish government itself has cautioned that Finland’s low infant mortality rate has many contributing factors. The maternity package may not have had a direct effect on reducing infant mortality, Tuovi Hakulinen and Mika Gissler of the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland said in a recent blog.
“It is difficult to study what the impact of the maternity package actually is, because it has been in use for decades and everyone who wants it can have it,” Hakulinen and Gissler write.
It is important to understand the history of the maternal package, says Karoliina Koskenvuo, head of the research team at the social security service, Kela.
In the early 1900s Finland was a poor agrarian society in which social support was available mainly from family, church and the local poor relief system, Koskenvuo writes on Kela’s website.
“Major public health challenges included the low standard of living and general hygiene, tuberculosis, epidemics and a high rate of infant and child mortality,” Koskenvuo explains.
It is against this background that Finland established maternity and child welfare clinics, expanded the healthcare system and the hospital network, launched vaccination programmes and raised the standard of living and education.
The maternity package was introduced in 1938 to disadvantaged mothers after childbirth. This was