Thursday, October 27, 2011

Utah Parents on the Lookout for Children's Developmental Issues

(SALT LAKE CITY) – In Utah, one in every nine children has a special health care need, chronic health condition, or disability. In an effort to educate parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today launched the Learn the Signs. Act Early (LTSAE) campaign at University of Utah Health Care’s (UUHC) Westridge Health Center.
As part of the campaign, a new UDOH website,, will give parents tools to help them track developmental milestones in the fight to recognize and address early childhood delays.
“The site outlines all the milestones a child should achieve by each birthday,” said Al Romeo, RN, LTSAE program coordinator. “The site also tells parents what to do and where to go for help right away if they’re concerned about the way their child plays, learns, speaks, or acts.” 
Early identification allows parents to seek help during the crucial period of a child’s early development. The sooner problems are identified, the better the chance children will get help and reach their full potential. Many conditions, such as hearing and vision impairments, autism, and intellectual disability, can be identified early by watching for children to reach milestones like talking, walking, pointing, and responding when parents call their name.
“We want parents to realize that although every child is different and develops at his or her own pace, there are still milestones each child should reach within a certain timeframe,” said Romeo. “We hope that this program will help parents identify delays and also encourage them to talk with their providers about their concerns.”
The UDOH will reach out to as many families as possible through community meetings, Internet  advertising, and even Facebook and Twitter.
Some of the milestone tracking tools will be available from local partners, the UDOH Office of Vital Records and Statistics will include milestone lists with birth certificates, and U of U Health Care’s community clinics will be offering tools during well-child visits.
“Acting early to screen for developmental disabilities can lead to interventions that may help with or reverse those delays,” said Paul Carbone, M.D., U of U Health Care pediatrician. “Enrolling children in early intervention programs and taking advantage of proven therapies can help keep them from falling further behind as they start and progress through the school years.”
The U of U Health Care Department of Pediatrics, UDOH Bureau of Children with Special Health Care Needs, and Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities have been training primary care providers across the state to incorporate developmental and autism screening in well-child care for all their patients. The Westridge Health Center, with input from parents, implemented quality improvement processes to screen children for delays and refer them to local providers for additional testing and treatment.
The campaign is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Salt Lake County is one of only four locations in the country to receive a grant to launch the campaign. Other locations include St. Louis, MO, Anchorage, AK (and surrounding areas), and Yakima, WA (and surrounding areas). The cities in the southwest corner of Salt Lake County, from West Valley City to Herriman, have a higher number of young children than surrounding cities and are the focus of the campaign evaluation.
LTSAE began with a baseline telephone survey in September and will end with a follow-up survey in the summer of 2012.  The CDC will incorporate the information gathered from the four launch areas before taking the campaign to other states.
For more information, visit
Media Contact:
Al Romeo
Program Coordinator

Monday, October 24, 2011

Learn the Signs. Act Early.

What:   In an effort to educate parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities, UDOH will announce the launch of a new campaign that will give parents tools to help them track milestones in the fight to recognize and address early childhood delays.
Why:     One in every nine children in Utah has a special health care need, chronic health condition, or disability. Research has shown that the earlier these problems are identified, the better the chance children will get help and reach their full potential.                
When:  Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 10:00 a.m.
Where:  University of Utah Health Care’s Westridge Health Center
              3730 West 4700 South
  West Valley City, UT

Interview Opps:
Al Romeo, R.N., PhD., Children with Special Health Care Needs Bureau
Paul Carbone, M.D., University of Utah Health Care, developmental pediatrician
Mary Shapiro, M.D., University of Utah Health Care, pediatrician
Emily Smith, Parent Partner at Westridge Health Center
Media Contact:
Al Romeo
Program Coordinator

Friday, October 21, 2011

Families of Teen Crash Victims Share Their Grief in New Booklet

In 2010, 25 Utah families were devastated to learn that their teenager had been killed in a motor vehicle crash. At a Utah department of Health news conference, some of the families shared their stories to encourage other drivers to use caution on the road.
Johnny Reyes’ 19-year-old daughter Vanessa, young mother to a three-month-old baby, was killed on June 26, 2010.  Vanessa and four of her friends were coming home from a camping trip in Ogden Canyon when the driver of their car made a bad decision in crossing a double yellow line to pass another car of friends. As they went around a curve, they were hit head-on by a heavy duty pickup truck, killing all five teens instantly.
“The scene of the crash was like a horrible nightmare. It was quiet; no ambulance, just a tow truck. I just wanted to see my daughter, but all I saw was mangled metal,” recalled Reyes. “I can’t begin to describe the emotions one feels knowing they will never see or hear their child again. The pain of knowing a small child will never know his mother and we will never hug her again. All because of a choice someone else made.”
This is the fourth year the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has collected stories of teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes. The book will be used by the UDOH and other state and local agencies as a prevention tool to help young drivers realize the impact their decisions have on others. For the past three years, similar books have been distributed to all high school driver education classes in the state. New to the book this year, is a map showing the location of each of the 25 deaths that occurred in 2010.
Fourteen (56%) of the teens killed in 2010 were passengers in a car. Ten (40%) were drivers and one (4%) was a pedestrian. Sixty percent of the crashes occurred on a weekend. Surprisingly, it isn’t along major freeways where the majority of these fatal crashes occurred; 14 (56%) of the deaths occurred on rural roadways.
“This book shows the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities,” said Jenny Johnson, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “Last year, there were three separate crashes in which nine young people died. More than one-quarter (28%) of the teens killed died in Weber County alone. The devastation these deaths have had on families and communities is just indescribable.” 
Teen drivers were three times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash. In addition to speeding, the most common contributing factors in fatal crashes were failing to stay in the proper lane, failing to yield right-of-way, and driving distracted. Only 35 percent of the teens killed in 2010 were wearing a seat belt.
“Let this book serve as a warning,” said Johnson. “Talk with your loved ones, friends, and classmates about these how these tragedies might have been prevented. Always wear your seat belt and set rules for your car and whenever you ride in a car.”
To download a copy of the “All They Left Were Memories” booklet in English or Spanish, visit  or
Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Music Brings Healing to Utahn with Brain Injury

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Already this year, an estimated 2,000 Utahns have suffered life-altering traumatic brain injuries (TBI) as a result of falls, car crashes, and attempted or completed suicides. Nearly 600 of these individuals have died as a result of their injury.

“Every day in Utah, seven people are hospitalized or die from a TBI,” said Trisha Keller, Manager of the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “The vast majority of those injured are older Utahns ages 65 and up. The real tragedy is that most TBIs are preventable.”

According to the UDOH, in 2009, 2,718 Utahns suffered a TBI severe enough to require hospitalization or that resulted in death. Of these, 796 (29.3%) died. The top five leading causes of TBIs in 2009 were falls (36.5%), motor vehicle crashes (16.6%), self-harm (7.1%), motorcycle crashes (6.0%), and bicycle crashes (5.3%).

Once a professional singer, Laurent Neu’s life drastically changed when, at age 29, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motorcycle crash.

“After the crash, we realized he wouldn’t be able to have a full career. So we looked at music as a source of contribution, enjoyment, and a way for him to excel at something when so many other things were challenging,” said Laurent’s wife, Kerrie. 

Laurent’s TBI affected his ability to learn and memorize music. Before his injury, he could sight read and memorize music after going through a song just once or twice, but after, it would take three months or more to learn a new song. “Laurent has worked so hard and it's amazing that he is now able to learn the quantity of music necessary to participate in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” said Kerrie. “The TBI has changed our family forever.”

Neu will do a vocal performance at the 22nd Annual Families and Professionals Conference sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Utah (BIAU) on October 13, 2011 at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy. The conference offers education and support for survivors and family members, health care professionals, educators, and other service providers.

Dr. Michael Ballam, Founder and General Director of the Utah Festival Opera and professor of music at Utah State University, will be among the keynote presenters. In addition, presentations on using music and art therapy to treat TBIs, as well enhancing family functioning, are among the highlights of this year’s conference. 

To register for the BIAU Conference visit Additional TBI-related data and information about Utah’s TBI Fund for survivors are available at

Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Ron Roskos
Brain Injury Association of Utah
 (m) 801-979-2799

Friday, October 7, 2011

World Arthritis Day is Oct. 12: Focus is on Exercise

(Salt Lake City) – Utah Department of Health (UDOH) data show that, of the more than 415,000 Utah adults diagnosed with arthritis, more than 57,000 (13.8%) report they do no moderate or vigorous physical activity. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Utah and the nation, and physical activity is an essential way to manage the condition. With that in mind, the theme for World Arthritis Day 2011 is “Move to Improve.”
“Often, people with arthritis feel like they can’t be physically active, or don’t want to be, because of the pain,” said Rebecca Castleton, UDOH Arthritis Program Manager.  “But staying sedentary actually increases the risk of injury, and physical activity is the best prescription for managing the disease,” she added.
Walking, swimming, biking, and arthritis-specific exercise programs can reduce pain, improve function, and delay disability. The UDOH partners with many groups, like the Arthritis Foundation, to offer education and physical activity programs for people with arthritis throughout the state. 
To help manage the arthritis in her back, Eleanor Greenland has attended the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP) at the Kearns Senior Center since 2005.
“My doctor told me I would end up in a wheelchair if I didn’t keep moving,” said Greenland. “This class has been the best thing for my back. I pretty well can keep away from needing any pain medication.” Eleanor notices a difference if she can’t exercise for a few weeks. “When I exercise I don’t have as much pain.”  
 Margaret Crowell teaches a weekly exercise program at Mt. Olympus Senior Center.  She says she has halted progressive arthritis in both her thumb joints and hands by regularly doing the program’s slow, gentle exercises. Her orthopedic specialist told her there was nothing she could do except take ibuprofen or exercise.  She decided to try exercise first.
“I’m really tickled because I didn’t want to get big, swollen thumbs and didn’t want it to progress into other fingers. I am a knitter and use the typewriter, so I consider it a big success because I’m still going along and my thumbs are virtually pain free,” she added.
Many participants tell Crowell the class is what keeps them going despite their arthritis.
“At the beginning of each class we talk and build spirits, pass on any tips or news. We laugh a lot and have fun. I encourage participants to do the exercises at home 15 minutes every day to keep up progress. They can do them while sitting down, or even while reading or knitting.”
This year, a national massage chain is joining the Foundation to celebrate World Arthritis Day. For every massage given on Wednesday, Oct. 12, the company will donate $10 to the Foundation for research.
The UDOH partners with many groups to offer arthritis education and physical activity programs. To find one in your area, or to learn more about local efforts to address arthritis, visit  or call 801-538-9458. Or contact the Arthritis Foundation at 1-800-444-4993 or
Media Contacts:
Christine Weiss (Arthritis Program)
(801) 538-9458
Leslie Nelson (Arthritis Foundation)
(801) 536-0990

Monday, October 3, 2011

Medicaid Providers Can Apply for Incentive Payments

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Today Utah Medicaid will begin accepting applications for eligible providers and hospitals who wish to participate in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program.  The goal of the program is part of a national effort to improve quality of patient care, patient safety and patient involvement in treatment options by using EHR technology.  Physicians and other eligible health care professionals can receive up to $63,750; hospitals in Utah can expect between $350,000 and $4 million as incentive to adopt or upgrade their EHR systems.
The State received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make EHR incentive payments to eligible Medicaid providers as they adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology.  Meaningful use includes electronically capturing health information in a coded format, using that information to track clinical conditions, as well as communicating that information for care coordination.
“The use of health information technology will transform the way health care is delivered in our state,” said Dr. David Patton, Executive Director, Utah Department of Health.  “EHRs will help reduce medical errors and assist health care professionals deliver more efficient care for their patients.”       
Qualified providers include physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who provide services to Medicaid patients in a Federally Qualified Health Center or Rural Health Clinic. 
Eligible providers can receive their first year’s incentive payment for adopting certified EHR technology, but must demonstrate meaningful use of the technology in ways that improve quality, safety, and effectiveness of patient-centered care in order to qualify for subsequent year payments. 
If you have further questions, call the EHR Hotline at (801) 538-6929 or email
Media Contact:
Kolbi Young
Public Relations Coordinator
(801) 538-6847 office  (801) 231-6350 cell