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