Home Institution

Tulane University

Publication Date

Fall 2012

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Research question: What is the public opinion of the free milk distributed by the Chilean Supplementary Feeding Program?

Objectives: The general objective is to reveal the public opinion of the milk distribution program in order to propose improvements. The specific objectives are to determine the advantages and disadvantages of the program, to become familiar with the perceptions of the milk according to various socioeconomic groups, and to investigate the level of awareness in order to propose strategies for development and education if necessary. Ultimately, this investigation identifies improvements to the program to satisfy the various needs of health professionals as well as the lower, middle, and upper classes.

Background: The Chilean Supplementary Feeding Program provides free milk to children under the age of six, regardless of whether they have public or private health insurance. It started in 1954, when malnutrition was a serious health concern in Chile. In order to receive the milk, the toddlers must receive medical examinations and vaccinations. Although the government previously studied the acceptability of a different milk product given to mothers through the program, the perceptions of the milk distributed to children had not been investigated.

Methodology: This study consists of one hundred surveys distributed to recipients of the free milk for children under the age of six. Fifty were distributed at a public health center in Independencia, and fifty more at a health center in Santiago Centro. The closed questions in the questionnaires asked about demographics, accessibility, the purchase of other milk, the perception and intended use of the milk, and its characteristics. The open questions asked about the advantages and disadvantages of the program. Three formal interviews were conducted: one with a nutritionist, one with a midwife, and one with an employee in the milk distribution center. One informal interview was conducted with a second nutritionist via email. All of the interview questions were open and asked about how different socioeconomic groups view the milk.

Results: The upper class does not collect the free milk. Some members of the middle class do not receive the milk either, but others, like the lower class, do receive and use the milk. Some people give the milk away to friends but most use it to feed their children or other members of their family. Although there is speculation that the milk is sold for profit, this study did not confirm that hypothesis. The advantages of the program are that it provides nutrition to children and lifts some of the financial burden of economically disadvantaged families. The consensus was that the main drawback of the program is that it does not provide enough milk to fully feed each child.

Conclusions: The program is extremely popular and well-received among health professionals and recipients of the milk alike. Although the upper class tends not to utilize the program due to the lack of need, the milk should still be offered to them because it is an entitlement for all. The most important improvement should be directed toward the middle and lower classes—provide a larger quantity of milk so that families remain satisfied with the program and do not run out before the end of every month.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | International and Community Nutrition | Nutrition | Public Affairs | Public Policy | Social Welfare


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