Friday, December 2, 2016

Untreated Tooth Decay Still a Problem for Many Utah Children

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Nearly two-thirds (66%) of Utah children between the ages of 6 and 9 experienced tooth decay in 2015, according to a new study conducted by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).  The survey collected information on various factors including access to dental care, tooth decay, urgent treatment needs, and sealant placement.

State Dental Director Dr. Kim Michelson says, “Unfortunately, this rate has increased significantly since the 2010 survey (52%) and surpasses the Healthy People 2020 objective of 49%.” Findings also indicate that nearly one-fifth of Utah children (19%) have untreated tooth decay and a few (1.5%) need urgent dental care.  Dr. Michelson adds, “This means these children were experiencing tooth pain or infection.”

Unfortunately, poverty and lack of dental insurance have long been shown to affect oral health status. Nearly one in six children in Utah lack dental insurance coverage. Survey results also indicate that one in 25 children experienced an issue during the previous 12 months that required dental care but their parents couldn’t afford the treatment. About 66% of parents said their child had been to the dentist in the last 6 months, but a little more than 2% had never been to a dentist.

One bit of good news is a significant increase in children having sealants present on at least one permanent molar tooth.  In 2015, nearly half (45%) of the children had sealants present compared with 26% in 2010.

Although dental decay is preventable, it remains the most common chronic childhood disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among children between the ages of 5 and 19.  

“We know oral health diseases are largely preventable yet we are moving in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Shaheen Hossain, the primary author of the report. “Along with increasing the access to needed services, we still need to educate parents on the importance of oral hygiene, nutritious diets with fewer sugary beverages, and getting routine dental care.”

The UDOH Oral Health Program (OHP) promotes dental decay prevention methods such as dental visits, sealants, fluoride, and other methods including early intervention education. For more information or a copy of the complete report, contact the OHP at 801-273-2995 or visit

Media Contact:
Anne McKenzie
Oral Health Program

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Report Highlights Utah’s Top Languages

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) recently released a new report listing the top 20 languages spoken in Utah. Reports for the six most populated counties in the state – Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Washington, and Weber counties – were also released and list the top 15 languages spoken in these counties.

According to the 2010-2014 American Community Survey, one in seven Utah residents speaks a language other than English at home and one-third of these speak English less than very well. The reports are intended to assist agencies providing health programs and services to limited English proficient (LEP) clients and patients.

The top five languages spoken in Utah are English, Spanish, Chinese, German, and Navajo.

“People may be surprised by the diversity of languages spoken in our state. We hope the reports bring attention to the language barriers faced by many of our fellow Utahns as they try to navigate the healthcare system,” said Brittney Okada, with the UDOH Office of Health Disparities

The reports are intended to help healthcare providers better comply with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) standards. The CLAS guidelines were developed to ensure the delivery of culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare and services.

“The reports can help providers and health programs better understand their patient and client population, plan for language services, evaluate their current language services, and improve patient and client interactions,” said Okada. “Effective and meaningful communication is essential to health services.”

The Utah Language Data Report and six county language reports can be found at under Translation and Interpretation Resources.

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Media Contact:
Brittney Okada
UDOH Office of Health Disparities
(385) 315-0220

Monday, November 21, 2016

Traveling to a Warmer Climate for the Holidays?

(Salt Lake City, UT) – While mosquito season has wrapped up in Utah and most other states that experience freezing temperatures in the winter, active Zika virus transmission is still occurring in many areas around the world. If you’re planning on leaving the snow and cold weather behind for the holiday season, Utah public health officials encourage you to thoroughly research the area you’re planning to visit. And, a good place to start is with information available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The CDC maintains a list of the countries with active Zika transmission at

“We are receiving calls from people going on cruises to the Caribbean wondering about Zika,” said Julia Robertson, with the Utah Department of Health. “People need to remember that Zika is still active in the Caribbean and other parts of the world and need to prepare for those trips accordingly if they chose to travel to those areas,” added Robertson.

Zika virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). Travelers heading to warmer climates where those mosquitoes continue to be very active are encouraged to pack accordingly to prevent mosquito bites.  Pack clothing that will protect you from mosquito bites including, long-sleeved shirts and long pants sprayed with permethrin, enough EPA-approved insect repellent with DEET for everyone travelling to last your entire trip, and condoms to protect you and your partner.

Most people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. But a pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus that can result in severe birth defects, such as microcephaly (small head and brain) and other severe brain defects that may lead to long-term developmental problems. Infection during pregnancy can also increase the chance for miscarriage, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. 

It is not yet known how often Zika infected pregnancies will result in problems. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, and no specific medical treatment for those who are infected.
The CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups:
Women who are pregnant:
If you or your partner live in or have traveled to a Zika-affected area, either use condoms (or other barriers to prevent infection) or do not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during your pregnancy.
Women who are trying to become pregnant:
Before you or your partner travel to or after returning from a Zika-affected area, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
If you have had possible exposure through recent travel or unprotected sex with a partner infected with Zika virus:
Zika symptoms – Wait at least 6 months after your symptoms start before trying to get pregnant.
No Zika symptoms – Wait at least 8 weeks after you may have been exposed to Zika before trying to get pregnant.

For women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant and have questions about Zika virus, contact the MotherToBaby program at 1-800-822-2229, text 855-999-3525, chat live or email, or visit

Media Contact
Charla Haley

Monday, November 14, 2016

Recognizing the Critical Health Care Provided by Rural Hospitals

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Since 2010, 71 rural hospitals across the country have closed, in part due to changes in policies which tend to reward hospitals that do a large volume of business. Fortunately, Utah’s rural hospitals have managed to escape a similar fate.

“Utah is one of the states in which a rural hospital has never closed,” said Dr. Don Wood, Director of the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) Utah Department of Health (UDOH). “The hospitals and providers serving Utah’s small towns, farming communities, and frontier areas work hand-in-hand to address their health issues, and they provide some of the best medical services in America,”  added Wood.

Due to the critical services that are provided in Utah’s rural communities, Utah Governor Gary Herbert has declared November 13 - 19, 2016 as Rural Health Week in Utah, and the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health is celebrating with several activities, including its annual Rural Photo Contest (information on the contest can be found at and e-book Utah Community Star Stories. Through the declaration, the Governor calls for increased promotion and enhanced collaborative efforts to continue to improve the health of those who live, work, and play in rural Utah. 

As part of Utah Rural Health Week, UDOH will recognize three Utah rural hospitals that have ranked nationally for the quality of the services provided during the year. Those facilities
include Gunnison Valley Hospital in Gunnison, Utah, Milford Valley Memorial Hospital in Milford, Utah, and San Juan Hospital in Monticello, Utah. They are being recognized for their outstanding patient care.OPCRH offers programs that support the financial stability and improved quality of services in rural areas, particularly among Critical Access Hospitals (hospitals with up to 25 beds), Small Rural Hospitals (hospitals with up to 49 beds), Rural Health Clinics (primary care access points, especially for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries). One of these programs is the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which aims to improve quality of care and financial stability of hospitals and prevent closures.

For more information about rural health in Utah visit

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Media Contact:
Owen Quinonez
Community Health Specialist
Office (801) 273-6620
Cell (801) 560-5935

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

SUBWAY® Restaurants Participate in Great American Smokeout: College students in Utah encouraged to support tobacco-free campus policies

(Salt Lake City, UT) – As part of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and local SUBWAY® restaurants are partnering to end tobacco use at Westminster College on Thursday, November 17.

Beginning at noon, representatives from the Utah way to quit tobacco cessation campaign will be encouraging students to quit tobacco cold turkey. Local SUBWAY® restaurants will also be passing out classic 6-inch turkey subs to students who pledge their support of a smoke-free campus policy.

“This year we’re encouraging the Westminster campus to go tobacco-free,” said Brittany Karzen of the UDOH. “Currently, Dixie State and BYU are the only smoke-free campuses in Utah and we would like to see Westminster College make the same decision.”

"Subway is excited to partner with the Utah Department of Health and be part of the Great American Smokeout again this year," said Jack Bickmore, local SUBWAY restaurant owner. "One thing we value at Subway is the importance of living a healthy lifestyle."

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 200,000 Utahns use tobacco; 9,600 of those are youth under the age of 18. Tobacco users in Utah can find free tips and advice on how to quit at

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Media Contact:
Brittany Karzen
(o) 801-538-6917
(m) 714-267-3679