Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blogging from Grange-over-Sands

Long entry today.

I made it safely to Manchester, England and was able to find my way on the train to Grange-over-Sands. It seems like a nice little town. Beautiful view of some body of water at the train stop (I have to figure out what it is), nice hotel, but very grey skies.

So, I am at the Nutrition and Nurture in Infancy and Childhood: Bio-Cultural Perspectives Conference sponsored by the University of Central Lancashire. As I said yesterday (and got a lot of responses on Facebook), I am talking about the economics of breastfeeding. I had indicated that I would share with readers what I heard that was in any way related to economics at this conference.

First, I missed the opening keynote on politics and breastfeeding. That was too bad because there is a lot of overlap between the economics of breastfeeding and the politics of breastfeeding. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between economics and politics in general. When do people tend to get politically active? One time is when there is something economic at stake. One of my favorite courses as an undergrad was taught by a wonderful political scientist named Jim Eisenstein--it was called the politics of scarcity. He nagged me about becoming an economist, but his course title clearly points to the interrelationship of the two.

Second, I saw a presentation about the information on breastfeeding in magazines and pamphlets in the UK. That was interesting. Made me think about seeing whether anyone has done a content analysis of breastfeeding messages on TV shows (particularly comparing by network) in the US. That is about economics because information (in combination with money and time and a whole lot of other stuff) clearly influences behavior.

Third, I heard a social anthropologist talk about breastfeeding. She was interesting because I ultimately think that anthropologists and economics are both very aware of constraints. She focused on culture as a constraint. I focus on time and money as constraints. We both focus on the fact that not everyone finds it to breastfeed to their child's heart's content.

Fourth, I saw a presentation about breastfeeding in Sweden. There it is the norm. The "starting up" cost may not be nearly so high when "not starting up" might actually be viewed more negatively.

Then, I saw a couple of presentations about breastfeeding pre-term kids. That was interesting because there was a discussion of an economic evaluation done by some people at the University of York in England (one of the top groups for doing this type of stuff) that suggested that more training of staff wouldn't cost a lot and could help mom's of preterm kids breastfeed more and sufficiently decrease the risk of sepsis and NEC to offset costs. Good argument. Special population.

Finally, I saw a play that has been presented to a couple groups of 8th-years in the UK. It is about making a choice about breastfeeding. Nice use of music, acting, and script. The choice of whether the expectant mom will breastfeed or not is not resolved at the end. Economics entered the script—and they said that boys commented on saving money more than girls afterward. Question for my American friends--do you picture something like this--not taking a position on whether to breastfeed but with some strong environmental and anti-formula messages expressed as opinions—would go over well in US public schools?

So, all in all, an interesting day setting the stage for my presentation on Thursday.

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