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  http://health.utah.gov/primarycare. Prizes will be given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.  Entries may be e-mailed to Owen Quiñonez at opcrh@utah.gov by December 5, 2014.  Winners will be notified by December 15, 2014, and winning photos will be posted on the OPCRH website at http://health.utah.gov/primarycare.

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 www.celebratepowerofrural.org.  To learn more about  the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), visit www.nosorh.org. And for more information about the Utah Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, visit http://health.utah.gov/primarycare/.

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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 www.health.utah.gov/autismwaiver 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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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Utah Vets Battle Back Against Arthritis: Self-management program gets them moving again

(Salt Lake City) – One in three Utah veterans is fighting a home-front battle with arthritis: of the 53,000 Veterans in Utah, more than 17,000 are currently diagnosed with the disease. A published CDC report shows a higher rate among Veterans than civilians that is likely related to joint injuries incurred during their military service.  The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, most often brought on by joint injury and trauma.

Dave Buchholz of Salt Lake City served in the Army Special Forces as part of an Air Force pararescue team in Southeast Asia from 1971 to 1975. He survived land and scuba jumps with 150 pounds of equipment, and even simulated helicopter crashes.  Dave suffers from PTSD and became addicted to pain killers to help manage his chronic pain. The trauma and impact of the jumps took their toll on his lower back, where joint pain and arthritis led to major back surgery in J

“I had an issue acknowledging my pain level.  I even self-medicated a bit with alcohol. It’s been a challenge. I’m pushing 63 years old, and I’ve got to ask myself, ‘How do I want to live the rest of my life?’”

Dave is living a better life today after taking the Living Well with Chronic Conditions self-management course, a scientifically-proven program that can reduce the adverse effects of arthritis (e.g., pain, poor function, depression) and its comorbidities (e.g., heart disease, diabetes). It’s a resource available to all Veterans.

Living Well with Chronic Conditions is a self-management education course offered throughout Utah that teaches people with arthritis and other chronic conditions how to control symptoms and understand how their health problems affect their lives. The course brings together groups of 10-15 participants who meet for two hours a week for six weeks. The courses are run by lay leaders with relevant health problems of their own. The VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City held its first Living Well with Chronic Conditions workshop in March 2013. Dave attended in April of this year.

“I got the most out of the workshop’s group discussions, learning about dealing with chronic pain and how to set goals.”  Dave’s goals were to stay active throughout the day, hitting the gym five times a week to release natural endorphins and help lessen the pain. “The Living Well workshop gave me the motivation to keep going to the gym. Endorphins free up some of the pain, that’s the good side,” he added. “The down side is that you have to overcome the pain to get to the workout.”

Since his back surgery, Dave has beaten his addiction to pain killers and feels well enough to pursue his interest in music by taking drum lessons. “With my history of addiction, alcoholism, PTSD, and chronic pain, I knew I had to do something to get my mind going in the right direction.”

Dave will be a grandfather for the first time in January. “That’s very motivational for me,” he explains.  “I’m not one who likes to complain. I’m really pleased with the health care I’ve received through the VA. They are great.”

If you are interested in improving the quality of life for a Veteran you know, you can help by letting him or her know about the free Living Well with Chronic Conditions self-management education classes.

For more information about how to manage your arthritis, visit http://health.utah.gov/arthritis/, or contact Christine Weiss, UDOH, at (801) 538-9458 or cweiss@utah.gov. To sign up for a class at the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center, contact Joan Heusser at 801-582-1565, ext 4246, or Joan.Heusser@va.gov.

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Media Contact:
Christine Weiss
UDOH Arthritis Program
(o) 801-538-9458 (m) 801-471-8073
cweiss@utah.gov

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pacific Islanders Admit to, Take On Poor Health Status


(Salt Lake City, UT) – Beginning Monday, November 10, the UDOH Office of Health Disparities (OHD) will join local community groups and sponsors in the state’s largest health initiative to address alarming health problems among Utah’s Pacific Islanders. In response to some of Utah’s highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and infant mortality, the Utah Pacific Islander Coalition (UPIHC) has coordinated a series of health promotion events from Salt Lake City to St. George. 

At UPIHC’s request, Governor Gary Herbert has declared the second week in November as Utah Pacific Islander Health Week, which has been observed through events like health fairs, free fitness programs, CPR classes, senior citizen luncheons, and community forums featuring Pacific Islander health advocates like Sione and Filipe Fa, former contestants on television’s The Biggest Loser

The Office of Health Disparities has collaborated with UPIHC since 2011 and actively provides technical assistance to Pacific Islander non-profit agencies like The Queen Center, National Tongan American Community, and Hui Hawai’i o Utah Hawaiian Civic Club. Queen Center executive director Joyce AhYou says holding Health Week in November is intentional. “It builds momentum before the holiday feasting season begins, to encourage ourselves to make healthier choices.” OHD director Dulce Díez praises the local Pacific Islander community for their proactive approach to addressing their own health issues – including infant mortality, diabetes, and obesity rates that were reported in 2011 as being twice as high as the rest of the state. 

UT PI Health Week kicks off on Monday, November 10 with the Pacific Family Health Expo from 6:00-8:30 pm at the Sorenson Multicultural Center at 855 W. 1300 S. in Salt Lake City. The Expo will feature a variety of activity stations, fitness demonstrations, information booths, and free services including health insurance enrollment help and screenings for cholesterol, visual acuity and glaucoma, blood pressure, and diabetes. The Expo is free, including a light dinner, and open to the public with activities for all ages.

The full schedule of Health Week events is available at www.utahpacifichealth.org. The UPIHC can be reached for questions at info@utahpacifichealth.org.

Utah Pacific Islander Health Week is the largest event of its kind in the Intermountain region, drawing over 1,100 attendees in 2013. According to Kava Talks founder, Susi Feltch-Malohifo‘ou, “This year’s Health Week is going to be bigger and better than previous years and this kind of growth and increased interest and investment in our community health is exactly what we want to see.”

The 3rd Annual Utah Pacific Islander Health Week is made possible through the support of UPIHC member organizations, SelectHealth, Molina Healthcare, The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH), Health Choice Utah, and the UDOH Office of Health Disparities.

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Media Contact:
Jacob Fitisemanu, Jr.
Outreach Coordinator
801-259-8700

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Newborn Screening Test IDs Rare, Sometimes Fatal Condition in Utah Baby

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Jody Bell and Logan Hauenstein are hoping they can bring their newborn infant home by Christmas. Their daughter, now 6 weeks old, was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) through the Utah Newborn Screening Program. Babies with SCID appear normal at birth but cannot fight infections and may die within the first year of life without treatment. If SCID is diagnosed early, before the onset of infections, a bone marrow transplant can successfully treat the disorder and with fewer complications.

Prior to newborn screening, infants with SCID with no family history of the disease had been diagnosed only after developing serious infections. Currently, 23 states have adopted the T-cell receptor excision circle (TREC) assay as part of their routine newborn screening programs. Utah began screening for SCID on July 1, 2013 and has screened approximately 61,000 newborns for SCID to date. The prevalence of SCID was thought to be 1:100,000; however, through newborn screening, more children are being diagnosed and the prevalence appears to be closer to 1:50,000.

The absence of T-cells and antibody immunity prevents infants from being able to fight severe infections; they develop diarrhea and failure to thrive. These were the problems that brought infants with SCID to medical attention before screening was implemented.

Population-based newborn screening is different from diagnostic testing done by providers confronted with a known or suspected disorder in their practice. Screening tests are performed on a large scale in centralized state public health laboratories that use blood from a heel stick that is spotted onto filter paper and dried, as first developed in 1963 by Robert Guthrie for population-
based testing of newborns for phenylketonuria. These dried blood spots (DBS) can be handled by

automated testing and tracking methods, enabling state laboratories to run thousands of samples at a time. Including SCID, there are 38 disorders on the Utah’s Newborn Screening Panel. A rigorous review is performed prior to the addition of a disorder. These disorders, as with SCID, allow for early diagnosis, treatment and successful outcomes.

For SCID, it is important to have an early diagnosis in order to avoid contact with non-family members and reduce the chances of an infection. Even something as simple as a cold can be devastating for these infants.

As for Jody and Logan, their daughter has been in isolation at Primary Children’s Hospital since she was only a few days old, awaiting a bone marrow transplant. Neither parent was a match for their daughter, but an anonymous donor who does match is ready to donate when physicians give the go-ahead. In addition to getting all babies’ newborn screens completed, Jody and Logan encourage everyone to register on the Be the Match donor website for others who may be in need of a transplant.

Note: The family, medical providers and newborn screening program staff will be available to answer questions Thursday, October 23, 2014 from 2:00-2:30 PM at the Utah Department of Health CSCHN Building, 44 Mario Capecchi Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Media Contacts
Cyndi Bemis
Office of Public Information and Marketing
(o) 801-538-6348 (m) 801-538-6348
Kim Hart
Newborn Screening Program
801-656-9315