Thinking Citizen Blog — The Baby Box — Compartments, Contents, Purposes

Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care and Global Health Policy Day

Today’s Topic: The Baby Box (aka “maternity package”) — compartments, contents, purposes

The first premises of my health care policy philosophy are: 1.) The purpose is to maximize health not health care or health insurance, 2.) the earlier the intervention the better (best visualized as the eponymous curve of Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman), 3.) the most important focus should therefore be on parental education — on making sure that every 18 year old knows what good parenthood means and that every parent, ready or not, receives the support they need to maximize the potential for joy, productivity, and responsibility of their new baby. Our K-12 education fails to provide such education. Our health and welfare systems fail to provide that necessary support. Today’s post is the first in a series to designed to ignite creative thinking about how to fix these twin problems. Today, my spin on the idea of a “baby box” which originated in Finland back in the 1930s. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE FINNISH “BABY BOX” (or “maternity package”)

1. First issued in 1938 in Finland to low income families. The box itself was a bassinet in which the child could sleep safely. Inside were diapers, a blanket, fabric for making clothes for the baby, and other items.

2. Since 1949, the boxes have been issued to all expectant mothers who are given the alternative of a cash grant of 170 euros, but 95% of mothers pick the “baby box” because of its much higher value.

3. The contents have been updated every year. The 2017 version includes 33 items (eg. a snowsuit, a sleeping bag, a first book, and a cuddly toy)

NB: A 2013 BBC story about the gift of a baby box by the Finnish government to Prince William and Catherine Middleton spawned a brood of start-ups peddling commercial knock-offs. Several countries instituted versions of the Finnish program and in 2017 New Jersey became the first US state to implement a similar program.


1. Three Main Compartments: standard items, financial grubstake, value kit.

2. Financial grubstake: think “baby bonds” (discussed in a prior post), but also “baby stocks,” and a “baby path to home ownership.” This can be seen as a 21st century version of the “Forty Acres and a Mule” promise of 1865 or Jefferson’s plan to give every citizen of Virginia 50 acres proposed back in 1776).

3. Value kit — here think of Charlie Munger’s crash course for Stanford Law School students in “Remedial Worldly Wisdom” discussed last week on Economics Day. What every parent needs to know are the most important ideas of all past generations of humans and how they fit together and relate directly to how to live every moment of every day of your life thereby modeling that behavior for your child thereby shining a bright light on the straight and narrow path toward the realization of their full potential for health, wealth, and wisdom.

NB: This “value kit” is what I’ve been working on for the last 10 years. Every day I try to do a better job of distilling 6000 pages of posts into a little book of common sense digestible by an average 8th grader.

THIS IS THE CORE OF THE VALUE KIT (and little surprise to most of you)

1. Gratitude is not only the first of the virtues but the parent of all the others.

2. The first of the children of gratitude is kindness and the second is courage.

3. The next are prudence and temperance which gets you to five and every child can count to five using their fingers.

NB: And just two more gets you to seven — diligence and excellence. And seven is good place to take a breath. See fourth link below for a few more details.

Maternity package

Baby Box Bassinets & Newborn Starter Kits

Royal baby: William and Catherine get Finnish baby box

For the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the most interesting thing you learned in the last week related to health, health care or health care policy — the ethics, economics, politics, history…. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to health are or health care policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random health-related fact that blew you away.

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, and art.