Thursday, December 11, 2014

Utah Named 5th Healthiest State in the Nation

(SALT LAKE CITY) —Utah continued its steady climb toward becoming the healthiest state in the nation with the release of the annual United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings™ report. The report named Utah the 5th healthiest state in the nation, improving on its rank of 6th in 2013 and 7th in 2012.

The report highlighted several strengths that lead to Utah’s ranking, including the lowest rates in the nation for tobacco use (10.3%) and cancer deaths (145.7 deaths per 100,000 residents), and the second-lowest rate in the nation of adult diabetes (7.1%).

“One of our strategic goals is to become the healthiest state in the nation, and I’m pleased that we are continuing to work in that direction,” said David Patton, executive director of the Utah Department of Health. “Utah should be proud of this ranking, it’s evidence that our strong public health and health care systems are doing right by the people of our state.”

Utah was ranked as one of the top five states for several key health indicators, including:
The lowest adult smoking rate in the U.S. at 10.3%;

The lowest prevalence of adult diabetes at 7.1%;

The lowest rate of children living in poverty at 9.2%;

The 2nd lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations;

The 4th lowest rate of obese adults at 24.1%;

The 4th lowest rates of binge drinking, Chlamydia cases, and Salmonella cases; and

The 5th lowest rate of adults reporting “poor physical health” days in the past month.

The report also highlighted several challenges Utah must overcome to achieve its goal of becoming the healthiest state.

“Unfortunately, even in our strengths we find challenges,” Patton said. “Compared to other states our obesity and physical inactivity rates are low, but both rates are trending upward. Obesity can lead to several chronic, deadly diseases; it’s entirely preventable and remains one of the top public health challenges of our time.” 

Other challenges the report highlighted were Utah’s high rate of prescription drug deaths, low immunization rates among teens, and the limited availability of primary care providers.

The state’s lowest rankings were:
46th for prescription drug overdose deaths;

45th for cases of Pertussis, or whooping cough;

44th for teen immunization rates;

44th for the number of primary care physicians;

39th for air pollution.

The entire report is available online at

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Tom Hudachko | Public Information Officer
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Utah Adolescent Health Varies by Local Health District

(Salt Lake City, UT) – For the first time ever, new, self-reported data show which areas of the state have the healthiest teens. “This is the first time we’ve been able to look at adolescent health by geography,” said Michael Friedrichs, UDOH Epidemiologist. “It’s exciting and incredibly important because school administrators, local health leaders and parents can now better identify the health and safety needs of this population.”  

Report findings have uncovered health problems that vary widely across the state and also within local health districts. For example, in the Weber-Morgan Health District, no indicators ranked better than the state rate. In fact, 11 of the 29 indicators were worse than the state, including: screen time, obesity, family meals, cigarette smoking,  e-cigarette use, exposure to smoking at home, secondhand smoke exposure, current asthma, diabetes, driver texting, and feeling sad or hopeless.

In contrast, in Utah County Health District, only three (asthma management, driver talking on a cell phone, and driver texting) of the 29 indicators were ranked worse than the state, showing that even in relatively healthy communities, health and safety concerns still exist.

The 2013 Utah Adolescent Health Report uses data from the Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) survey. The PNA surveyed a random sample   of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 in the spring of 2013 on substance abuse, tobacco use, asthma, diabetes, healthy weight, physical activity, nutrition, tanning, violence, and injury. Response was voluntary and parents approve their student/s’ participation.

Other highlights of the report include:
    • Salt Lake County and Tooele County Health Districts had significantly higher rates of psychological distress, making a suicide plan, and attempting suicide compared to the state.
    • One in four Utah students reported having been threatened or harassed over the Internet, by email, or by someone using a cell phone, with the highest prevalence seen in Salt Lake County Health District at 26.8%.
    • At 5.8%, the prevalence of current use of e-cigarettes is higher among Utah students than current cigarette smoking (3.9%). In Weber-Morgan Health District, 20% of the students reported current e-cigarette use.
    • Adolescents in Utah County (65.0%), Wasatch (65.2%), and Weber-Morgan (65.4%) Local Health Districts reported significantly higher rates of riding in a car with a driver who was texting compared to the state (61.3%).
    • Central, Southeastern, Southwest, Tooele County, and TriCounty adolescents reported significantly lower seat belt use compared to the state.

“Opportunities for change exist all around us, from using permanent signs as an easy way to inform parents and visitors that school property is a tobacco-free zone, to ensuring an asthma action plan is completed yearly by parents of children who have asthma,” said Heather Borski, Director, Bureau of Health Promotion, UDOH.
The data are presented in tables, graphs, and maps to help show the percentage of Utah students in grades 8, 10, and 12 who are affected by different health issues and where problems are concentrated in the state.

Topics in the report include:
    • Lifestyles (computer screen time, physical activity, youth obesity, family meals, tanning, tobacco use)
    • Chronic conditions (asthma, diabetes)
    • Violence and injuries (motor vehicle safety, prescription drug abuse, bullying)
    • Mental health (feeling sad or hopeless, psychological distress, suicide)

For a full copy of the 2013 Adolescent Health Report, visit

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Media Contact
Michael Friedrichs
UDOH Epidemiologist

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Tools Launched to Improve Health Services for Diverse Communities

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah’s increasingly diverse population poses unique challenges to health care facilities and public health agencies that serve growing numbers of clients and patients. In response to a growing number of requests for assistance, the Utah Department of Health Office of Health Disparities (OHD) has developed a training video and a practical toolkit to help state and local health agencies put into practice a set of national standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS).

To ensure the materials are relevant, the CLAS video and toolkit are based on nationally promoted best practices, as well as Utah-specific information obtained through surveys and interviews with personnel from 36 programs from state and local health departments. The results revealed a significant need for CLAS standards and policies, as only 15% of the surveyed personnel felt their programs were “fully capable” of providing verbal or written language assistance to people with limited-English proficiency (LEP).

Language assistance is only one component covered under CLAS standards, and all health care organizations can benefit from enhancing their culturally- and linguistically-appropriate approaches to staff training, governance, workforce diversity, and policy making.

The CLAS video, “A Class about CLAS”, provides an overview of CLAS themes and features expert commentary and guidance from public health agencies, health care organizations and community-based organizations.

To provide practical guidance for anyone interested in implementing CLAS standards, the CLAS Toolkit offers discussion scenarios and highlights real examples of CLAS-related practices and policies now used across Utah. “We believe all health care organizations and public health agencies can benefit from these tools,” said UDOH Office of Health Disparities Outreach Coordinator Jake Fitisemanu, who notes that CLAS standards compliance is mandated for all programs that receive federal funds and all agencies seeking national accreditation.

The CLAS video and toolkit, along with additional CLAS-related resources, are available online for free download at

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Media Contact
Jake Fitisemanu
Outreach Coordinator
Office of Health Disparities

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rural Utahns: What Has Local Health Care Done for You?

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The region’s top rural health official is in Utah this week to recognize the state as a leader in providing quality health care. As part of Utah’s 4th annual Rural Health Week, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) is hosting Kim Gillan, regional director for U.S. Health and Human Services. Gillan works with officials across a six-state region on numerous health and social service issues.

Gillan’s visit will include a stop at Heber Valley Medical Center in Heber City. During a brief ceremony, hospital administrator Shawn Morrow will receive a copy of Governor Gary Herbert’s declaration highlighting the importance of rural health care. Morrow will also be given a certificate from OPCRH recognizing overall excellence in patient satisfaction and financial stability, two measures that reflect the state’s top quartile performance among all acute care hospitals in the nation.

This year, Rural Health Week is observed November 16 through November 22. The designation is meant to reinforce a history of broad-based, deep-seated commitment from all sectors to improve the quality of and access to health care for rural Utahns.

Also as part of Rural Health Week, OPCRH is holding its 3rd Annual Utah Rural Photo Contest. Entries should share visually what “rural” means to you. Submissions will be judged on creativity, originality, photo quality, and the picture’s overall appeal.  Photos must be original and taken during 2014.  Photos should be submitted in a .jpg format with a minimum resolution of 1920x1080, and include the photographer’s name, email address, organization name (if applicable) and the title and location of each photo using the entry form found at Prizes will be given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.  Entries may be e-mailed to Owen QuiƱonez at by December 5, 2014.  Winners will be notified by December 15, 2014, and winning photos will be posted on the OPCRH website at

Approximately 24 percent of Utahns live in rural areas and rely on health care professionals close to home to meet their medical needs.  Dr. Don Wood, OPCRH Director, says, “Many people may not know that the care offered in smaller communities is high quality. It can also be more personal, as providers can offer medical services tailored to meet their patients unique needs.”  Wood adds, “Rural medical providers offer exceptional care which is equal to that in more densely populated regions.”

All 50 states maintain a State Office of Rural Health (SORH) to foster relationships, disseminate information, and provide technical assistance that improves access to, and quality of, health care for its rural citizens. As Utah’s SORH, OPCRH awards more than $600,000 in grants to rural health organizations to help residents access primary care, mental health and dental services. This funding helps local providers care for Utahns in small communities, which comprise 95% of the state’s land mass. OPCRH also provides hospitals more than $150,000 in Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) grants to improve health care in their communities.

For more information about National Rural Health Day, visit  To learn more about  the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), visit And for more information about the Utah Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, visit

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Children's Autism Program Opens Enrollment for 25 New Participants

What: The Utah Department of Health’s Medicaid Autism Waiver program will open enrollment today and will accept  applications through Sunday, December 7.  The program provides treatment for approximately 290 children, ages two through six, who are clinically diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  

Why: The program has the funding to provide services to an additional 25 new applicants.  Children currently participating in the program will not need to re-apply.

Who: Children who meet the following requirements may apply:
- Have a clinical diagnosis of ASD
                        - Be a Utah resident and U.S. citizen or legal resident  
                        - Be between 2 and 6 years of age
                        - Meet financial eligibility guidelines for Medicaid, which means the child (not the parents) cannot have more than $2,000 in assets in his/her name

When: The program will accept applications from November 17 through December 7. Applicants are not selected on a first-come, first-served basis.  Once the application period ends, if more than 25 applications are received, random selections will be made by geographical area based upon on each local health district’s population, to ensure statewide access.

Where: Apply online at or print an application and submit it by fax (801-536‐0153) or by mail (UDOH, PO Box 143112, Salt Lake City, UT 84114).

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