Wednesday, August 29, 2012

UDOH Releases Estimates on Uninsured Utahns for 2011

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today released new data estimating that 377,700 Utahns, or 13.4 percent of the total population, went without health insurance in 2011.  The figure represents an increase from the 2010 overall uninsured rate when the UDOH estimated 301,700 people, or 10.6 percent of the population, were uninsured.
The increased rate is at least in part due to the use of improved survey methods that provided a better estimate of the number of uninsured than did previous surveys. The change in methods means it can’t be known for sure whether there has also been an actual increase in the number of uninsured Utahns since 2011.
Prior to 2011, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey that measures key public health indicators, was conducted with Utahns who own landline telephones.  In 2011, the survey methodology was changed to also include Utahns who use only cell phones.  The survey also began utilizing an updated methodology to weight the data in order for it to more accurately represent Utah’s population.
Both of these methodology changes account for the increasing number of Utah households without landline phones, while also addressing an under-representation of males, adults with less formal education or lower household income, and racial and ethnic minorities.
Key findings from the new data include:
    •  56,500 children ages 0-18 years were uninsured and living below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), making them eligible for Utah’s CHIP program.
    •  7.9 percent of Utah children ages 0-17 years (69,600) were without health insurance coverage in 2011.
    •  Younger adults ages 19-26 years and 27-34 years had the lowest rates of insurance coverage in 2011 than any other age group.
    •  Among adults ages 19-64 years who were employed full time, 13.2 percent were uninsured in 2011, while 26.3 percent of adults who were employed only part time went without health care coverage.
    •  Among self-employed Utahns, 29.1 percent reported being uninsured in 2011.
 “It’s particularly discouraging to see 56,500 Utah children went without health care coverage last year when the state’s CHIP program could have helped them,” said UDOH Executive Director David Patton. “My goal is to help Utahns become the healthiest people in the nation, and addressing the rate of uninsured Utahns is an important part of achieving that goal.”
The BRFSS is a household health survey overseen by the CDC and conducted by individual state health departments.  Additional data on the estimated number of uninsured Utahns broken down by demographic characteristics can be found at
Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
Public Information Officer
(801) 538-6232
(801) 560-4649

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

UDOH Launches New Website to Combat Obesity

(Salt Lake City, UT) – With nearly 60% of Utah adults overweight or obese, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Physical Activity, Nutrition & Obesity (PANO) Program has launched a new website,, to help individuals and families choose healthy options.

The website contains sections for families, schools, health care providers, and businesses that provide tools and information on general health, fitness, and obesity prevention.  The goal is to support Utahns in moving more and eating healthier through changes in their schools, communities, worksites, and in health care settings.
A key feature of the website allows individuals to search a resource list by county or ZIP code to find information on local gyms, community farms, obesity-related conditions, and many other health resources. 
PANO staff say the site is a particularly good resource for parents with children heading back to school. Because research shows parents and caregivers are the primary influences on children, the site provides nutrition and exercise recommendations, and information on numerous school programs to help encourage healthy lifestyles among children during school hours.
“The site gives Utahns critical tools and advice to make those healthy changes in their lives,” said Rebecca Fronberg, PANO Program Manager. “We hope it will help families take steps toward better health.” 
Obesity is a public health priority because of its associated risk with many other chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
For more information, visit:
Media Contact:
Melanie Wallentine
Physical Activity, Nutrition & Obesity (PANO) Program

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vet Warns Secondhand Smoke Dangerous to Pets

(Salt Lake City)  More than half of U.S. households are home to at least one pet and the number is growing both nationwide and in Utah. Despite our local love for animals, many pets in Utah are exposed to secondhand smoke, which can have detrimental effects on their health and even lead to early death.

“Most pets are mammals, just like human beings, and exposure to secondhand smoke affects them the same way it affects people,” says Dr. Nathan Cox, veterinarian at Cottonwood Animal Hospital. “It’s hard when someone brings in a pet who is ill and doesn’t even realize their addiction is causing the problem.”

Studies show that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke are prone to nasal cancer and that once contracted, affected dogs rarely live more than one year.  Exposed cats often experience oral cancer from licking themselves and ingesting the byproducts of secondhand smoke.  Dogs and cats are also at risk if they ingest cigarette butts. “Just two cigarette butts can be deadly to a dog,” said Amy Oliver Media Manager for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at the Utah Department of Health.

Birds and other exotic pets are also at risk for allergies and respiratory conditions caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.  “I’ve seen in my practice that exposure makes more susceptible to chronic infections and asthma,” says Cox. "Not only do these conditions make the pet miserable, the cost of treating them can really take a bite out of the family budget."

“We’re sharing this information because we want people to be inspired to quit smoking for themselves and for their “best friends,” said added Oliver.  “And our community resources like the Quit Line and the can help pet owners make a plan to get themselves and their pets on track to a healthy life.”

Studies show that 9 in ten pet owners consider their pet a member of the family and big household decisions, like car and home purchases, are often made with the pet’s happiness in mind.  Pet owners also spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year to treat tobacco-related illnesses in their animals.

Tobacco use is the single greatest cause of preventable death in Utah, claiming more human lives than car crashes, murders, suicides, AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, and fires combined. For free help quitting smoking, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW, or visit

Media contact:
Amy Oliver
Marketing Manager
(801) 538-6917 (o) (801)783-9067 (m)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Health Officials Confirm First Human Case of West Nile Virus

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Public health officials from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Bear River Health Department (BRHD) verified the state’s first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) for 2012. The individual is a resident of Box Elder County, between the age of 18 and 39.

To date, there has been limited activity involving positive mosquito pools detected in northern Utah, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t here. The best way to reduce your risk of contracting West Nile virus is to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. UDOH epidemiologist JoDee Baker says, "Prevention is simple and the disease can be severe, so it just makes sense to take precautions."
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, but not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that do carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn. So, when you’re outdoors during those times, it’s important to wear mosquito repellent that contains DEET or Picaridin, as well as long sleeved shirts and long pants. For adults and children between the ages of 2 months and 12 years old, use repellents containing up to 30% DEET. Remove any puddles or standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed, including birdbaths, swimming pools, old tires and plant containers.

West Nile virus infections in humans are rare, but they do occur. Since 2003, there have been 327 verified human cases of West Nile virus in Utah, as well as eight deaths. Symptoms of the severe form of West Nile virus include: high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation and confusion. If you are experiencing symptoms of West Nile virus, please contact your health care provider immediately.
West Nile virus surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue throughout the summer and fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit Throughout the WNV season, the UDOH Web page will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.
Media Contact:
Becky Ward
Health Educator
Work: 801-538-6682
Cell: 801-647-5421