Potential economic impacts from improving breastfeeding rates in the UK

S. Pokhrel (Lead / Corresponding author), M. A. Quigley, J. Fox-Rushby, F. McCormick, A. Williams, P. Trueman, R. Dodds, M. J. Renfrew

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    Rationale: Studies suggest that increased breastfeeding rates can provide substantial financial savings, but the scale of such savings in the UK is not known.

    Objective: To calculate potential cost savings attributable to increases in breastfeeding rates from the National Health Service perspective.

    Design and settings: Cost savings focussed on where evidence of health benefit is strongest: reductions in gastrointestinal and lower respiratory tract infections, acute otitis media in infants, necrotising enterocolitis in preterm babies and breast cancer (BC) in women. Savings were estimated using a seven-step framework in which an incidence-based disease model determined the number of cases that could have been avoided if breastfeeding rates were increased. Point estimates of cost savings were subject to a deterministic sensitivity analysis.

    Results: Treating the four acute diseases in children costs the UK at least £89 million annually. The 2009-2010 value of lifetime costs of treating maternal BC is estimated at £959 million. Supporting mothers who are exclusively breast feeding at 1 week to continue breast feeding until 4 months can be expected to reduce the incidence of three childhood infectious diseases and save at least £11 million annually. Doubling the proportion of mothers currently breast feeding for 7-18 months in their lifetime is likely to reduce the incidence of maternal BC and save at least £31 million at 2009-2010 value.

    Conclusions: The economic impact of low breastfeeding rates is substantial. Investing in services that support women who want to breast feed for longer is potentially cost saving.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)334-340
    Number of pages9
    JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
    Issue number4
    Early online date4 Dec 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


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