Potential cost savings for Medi-Cal, AFDC, food stamps, and WIC programs associated with increasing breast-feeding among low-income Hmong women in California

  • Tuttle C
  • Dewey K
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Objective To determine the potential cost savings for four social service programs if breast-feeding rates increased among Hmong women in California.

Design Cost-savings analysis.

Subjects/setting Hmong women in California. In this population, breast-feeding is currently uncommon, and use of contraceptives is minimal.

Main outcome measures Savings were based on estimates of the resulting decrease in infant morbidity, maternal fertility, and formula purchases (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) if women breast-fed each child for at least 6 months. Costs were projected over a 7.5-year period and future values were discounted with annual interest rates of 2% or 4%.

Results Substantial savings estimates were associated with breast-feeding for all four programs. The total projected savings over the 7.5-year period ranges from $3,442 to $4,944 (4% discount) to $4,475 to $6,060 (0% discount) per family enrolled in all four programs. This translates into an estimated yearly savings of between $459 and $659 (4% discount) and $597 and $808 (0% discount) per family.

Applications Although health care providers generally accept that breast-feeding is the preferred method for feeding infants, many still view the choice as a neutral one; that is, they consider low breast-feeding rates in the United States a cultural choice with no cost to society. This analysis provides evidence that breast-feeding is economically advantageous for individuals and society.

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  • Cynthia Reeves Tuttle

  • Kathryn G Dewey

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