Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pledge to Quit Tobacco and Celebrate the New Year with Free EVE Tickets

(Salt Lake City)  It’s no secret that one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking, and everyone who’s trying to quit could use a little help to get started. This year, you can celebrate the New Year smoke-free and in style, with a little help from the Utah Department of Health and the Downtown Alliance’s EVE celebration.

Anyone who’s ready to commit to quit tobacco can pick up a free wristband at one of two locations by filling out a 'quit agreement.' Staff will be staff on site to help quitters choose a quit date. 

“Quitting tobacco is a great resolution because the results are quick and long-lasting,” says Amy Oliver, marketing manager, Utah Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. “Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate becomes normal and it takes only two weeks to three months for your risk of heart attack to drop,” Oliver added. “Over the long term, your risks become minimal.”

Tobacco users can get ‘quit agreements’ and EVE wristbands at:
  • Beans and Brews, 268 South State, Salt Lake City, 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., December 28, courtesy of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department
  • University Mall Lodge Court, 575 East University Parkway, Orem, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. December 28, courtesy of the Utah County Health Department
“EVE is Salt Lake’s premiere New Year’s party, taking place December 29, 30 and 31,” said Nick Como, communications director, Downtown Alliance. “EVE passes grant you admission to all three nights of music at the Gallivan Center, as well as great entertainment at 10 other venues.”

For more information and help quitting tobacco, call 1.800.QUIT.NOW or visit

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UDOH Looking for People Ready to Quit Tobacco

(SALT LAKE CITY) – If you’re ready to quit using tobacco products and want to share your story with Utah, now is your chance. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) is hosting a casting call to recruit current Utah tobacco users for its new, statewide reality TV campaign, ‘Be A Quitter.’

Anyone who is thinking about quitting in 2013 can visit and tell their story in 250 words or less for a chance to star in the commercials. Those who do will receive extra quit support and motivation, and will be an inspiration to others who are trying to quit.

Participants will receive a stipend plus a tablet device to help them document their quitting process, including struggles and successes, through social media and video updates. The campaign will cast 8-10 participants from across Utah who represent a range of ages and types of tobacco use.

The ‘cast’ will be taped once or twice a week for reality-style TV commercials that will be aired throughout the quit attempt process. They will also be asked to upload their own videos and social media posts to keep viewers updated on their progress. The group may also appear in news stories and documentaries about the Utah Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and that will include messages urging other tobacco users to join the fight.

Participants aged 18 years and older will agree to share their struggles and successes with the public as they try to quit tobacco, and give details about the effects, both good and bad, that quitting has had on them, their families, co-workers, and friends.

“Quitting for good is a hard thing to do and there are hurdles like relapsing, starting over on quitting, and finding alternatives to kick the habit,” said Amy Oliver, UDOH TPCP marketing manager. “We want this campaign to show tobacco users that they’re not alone in the quitting process and to encourage them to never give up.”

The television campaign, slated to begin airing in February 2013, will target the approximately 200,000 Utah adults who currently use tobacco.  

Free resources are always available for people who want to quit tobacco. For help, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit

Media Contacts: 
Amy Oliver
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program
Janae Duncan

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

UDOH Releases Data on 5 New Measures of Hospital Safety

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today released the
Utah Hospital Comparison Report, 2011. Utahns can use the report to access important information on all Utah hospitals regarding quality and patient safety measures that include:

1. Rates of accidental lacerations and punctures;
2. Death rates for diagnoses that should rarely result in death (e.g., hip dislocation, cesarean delivery);
3. Rates of incidental appendix removal among the elderly;
4. A composite rating for six mortality measures including heart attack, heart failure, acute stroke, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, hip fracture, and pneumonia, and;
5. A composite rating of selected patient safety performance measures, including infection due to medical care and postoperative hip fracture.
The Utah Hospital Comparison Report is released annually to improve transparency, help the public choose a hospital for various services, and ultimately improve the quality of health care. Compared to the nation, Utah does better in rates of incidental appendix removal among the elderly, but worse in rates of accidental lacerations and punctures and in death rates for procedures that rarely result in death. Utah performed better than the nation for the mortality composite but worse for the patient safety composite.
“Some complications may be inevitable in caring for people who are seriously ill and require complex medical care, but methods are available to prevent most complications,”   said UDOH Deputy Director Dr. Robert Rolfs. “Data like these are important in helping us measure our progress, and in helping doctors and health care systems identify areas for improvement,” Rolfs added.
Under the direction of the Health Data Committee, the Utah Department of Health has released hospital comparison reports since 2005, as mandated by the Health Care Consumer Bill (SB 132).  The previous and current hospital comparison reports have been generated by MONAHRQ, a web development tool created by the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).  The information available in the MONAHRQ system is based on admission rates and pre-calculated AHRQ Quality Indicator (QI) measures derived from local hospital discharge data. 
The report also includes detailed quality statistics and the numbers of hospital visits for a given condition and the average charges associated with that hospital stay.
In addition to the newly-released measures, the majority of other health indicators that have been reported on in the past are still accessible. For example, expectant mothers can look for a hospital that excels in uncomplicated newborn deliveries.  Older patients needing hip replacement can learn how much they would be charged at one hospital versus another.
In addition, health care professionals, policy makers, and legislators can use the findings to develop and implement important health policies and best practice guidelines that will increase the quality of health care, while reducing costs. 
Each of the five new measures has been endorsed by the non-profit National Quality Forum, which is dedicated to improving the quality of health care in the United States. Utah Hospital Comparison report can be found at
Media Contact:
Zach Burningham, MPH
Senior Research Analyst
(o) 801-538-6355 (m) 801-857-8646

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Utah Keeps Spot in Top 10 Healthiest States

(SALT LAKE CITY) — For more than two decades, Utah has been an example of how to keep people healthy and safe. This year, the 23rdannual United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings™ report calls Utah the 7th healthiest state in the nation. Highlights include:

  • The lowest adult smoking rate in the U.S. at 11.8%;
  • The lowest prevalence of adult diabetes at 6.7%;
  • The 3rd lowest rate of binge drinking;
  • A 2% increase in immunization coverage among children ages 19 to 35 months;
  • A 21% drop in preventable hospitalizations among Medicare enrollees since 2007;
  • The lowest rate of cancer deaths at 128.6 per 100,000 population, and;
  • The 2nd highest percentage of residents who stay physically active.
“We’re pleased to continue on a course of healthy behaviors, like exercising and avoiding smoking and binge drinking,” said Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Executive Director Dr. David Patton. “But our work truly is never done, as we still don’t have enough primary care physicians, our air is often unhealthy to breathe, and our low immunization rates are apparent in the fact that we rank near the bottom in preventing infectious diseases.”

And while the state appears to be doing well in the obesity battle, ranking 6th lowest in the nation, UDOH leaders say numbers can be deceiving.

“Right now, one in every four Utahns is obese, and the number goes up every  year,” said UDOH Deputy Director Robert Rolfs, M.D. “Our eating habits – especially the  empty sugar calories we consume –  are killing us,” Rolfs added. 

Health disparities are another area of concern for UDOH staff. The UHF report finds that more than 30 percent of the state’s non-Hispanic Native Americans, and more than 29 percent of Hispanics, are obese.

The report also cited low public health funding as a significant hurdle.  In 29th place, Utah spends an average of $67 per resident.  In contrast, the number 1 state spends 3.5 times that at $236 per person.
“We have a lot of work to do, and we can become the healthiest state in the nation,” said Teresa Garrett, UDOH Director of Disease Control and Prevention.  “We can do it with the help of our partners, including those at the local health departments. They deserve much of the credit for helping keep people healthy through their clinics, immunization programs, and numerous other services,” Garrett added.

In all, Utah ranks in the top 10 in 13 of the 24 determinants:
  • 1st in smoking, diabetes, and cancer deaths
  • 2nd in sedentary lifestyles and preventable hospitalizations
  • 3rd in binge drinking
  • 4th in infant mortality and deaths from cardiovascular disease
  • 5th in violent crime
  • 6th in obesity and premature death 
  • 8th in children in poverty
The state’s lowest rankings are:
  • 46th in geographic disparities
  • 45th in the number of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas
  • 39th in rates of infectious diseases
There are many factors at work in Utah’s consistent top 10 ranking over the 23 years of the UHF report. “The rankings document much of the valuable work done in public health,” said Dr. Patton.  “And we must also give credit to other significant factors, like our culture of health and healthy behaviors, like avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and to our nationally-recognized, high quality private health care systems,” he added.

Media Contact:Cyndi BemisPublic Information Officer(o) 801-538-6348 (m) 801-550-4228
After-hours media line: 801-209-2591

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yes, Mom, the Flu Vaccine is Safe in Pregnancy

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Flu season is here, which may pose potential problems for moms-to-be. Pregnant women are at a higher risk for serious complications from influenza (flu), which may require medical treatment including hospitalizations.
The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization all recommend the flu vaccine for any woman considering a pregnancy and for all women who are pregnant this flu season.
Beth Vukin, M.D., pediatrician with Primary Children’s Medical Center, understands the importance of getting a flu shot every year as new strains of the virus are added to the vaccine every year.  This year is especially important to Dr. Vukin, who is now 14 weeks pregnant.
“Due to my pregnancy, I am at a higher risk of getting the flu and, if I do get the flu, I am at higher risk for having severe consequences. I work with children with the flu all the time and have seen first-hand the consequences in infants.  I got the vaccine to protect myself, but also to protect my baby.”
“The flu vaccine is like a gift that keeps on giving,” says Al Romeo, PhD and nurse with the UDOH Pregnancy Risk Line (PRL).  “Because an infant under six months of age cannot get the vaccine, the baby relies on the antibodies that he or she gets from mom during pregnancy. These antibodies last several months after birth, and even longer when a mother breastfeeds.”
Romeo says he has been alarmed at the number of pregnant women who are calling the Pregnancy Risk Line this year, indicating they will not be getting the flu vaccine. His response is to reassure moms that the flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy and that getting protected from the flu is the one of the healthiest activities a mom can do for herself and her baby this season.
For more information about the flu vaccine and the safety of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, contact the Pregnancy Risk Line at 800-822-2229 (BABY).
The PRL is a free service for Utah families and health care providers and has been answering questions about the effects of medicines, chemicals and other maternal exposures on a developing fetus or breastfed baby for nearly 30 years.
Media Contact:
Julia Robertson
UDOH Pregnancy Risk Line

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pacific Islanders Celebrate Improving Infant Health

(Originally released Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012)
(Salt Lake City, UT) - After a 2010 report by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Office of Health Disparities (OHD) found the state’s Pacific Islander babies died in infancy at nearly twice the rate of babies statewide (8.8/1,000 live births compared to 4.5), OHD partnered with the Pacific Islander community to find a solution. Now, after just two years and a focused research effort, OHD is pleased to report that:
   Among Utah Pacific Islanders, obesity during pregnancy dropped from 39.5% to 35.0% of childbearing mothers;
   54.0% of these mothers received early prenatal care compared to 48.1% previously, and;
   51.2% of Pacific Islander women ages 18-44 report taking folic acid, up from just 31.9% when the project began.
"I am happy to see some research and resources out there telling our stories through our voices because infant mortality is a big issue,” said Lita Sagato of the Pacific Islander Health Coalition. “It is so refreshing to see how the state health department is taking an interest in our community.”
“We have so many health issues that are overlooked because we are such a small community here,” said Fahina Pasi, Director, National Tongan American Society (NTAS). “It is rare that health departments take on communities that can be perceived as invisible compared to the larger population,” she said. “It indicates to us that in Utah the health of all citizens is important.”
OHD conducted a statewide study of Utah Pacific Islander health, the first of its kind addressing mainland Pacific Islanders in the U.S. (See the report at
OHD also collaborated with Community Health Centers, Inc. to assess barriers to prenatal care, breastfeeding, and maternal health. (See the assessment results at
In addition, OHD funded two Pacific Islander organizations, NTAS and the Queen Center, to educate their own communities through support groups, faith-based initiatives, case management, and health promotion activities.
“The NTAS has been able to help members of our community apply for benefits like health insurance and nutrition programs,” Pasi said. “Many Pacific Islanders have qualified for years but, due to language and system barriers, they have gone without the help they are qualified to receive.”
The Queen Center worked with OHD to create health videos featuring several local Pacific Islanders.
“I was happy my husband and I were chosen to represent our people in the video,” said Marion Cline. “At the time we were expecting our fifth child and were able to share our personal struggles with childbearing. We hoped that husbands and wives could relate to our story and both have an active part in prenatal care and the well-being of their babies.”
The videos have been viewed online more than 10,000 times and also shared in DVD format by local agencies. (Visit
Another Queen Center activity, the MANA Fitness Challenge, will conduct its final weigh-in during Pacific Islander Health Week.  Other events include an appearance by Sione Fa of TV’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ and a ‘Healthy Families Celebration’ at the Sorenson Rec Center.
“This is a free event for the whole family and offers health screenings, resources, kids’ activities, Zumba classes, swimming, and free Quit-Kits for smokers. We want everyone to come enjoy our celebration of health and life,” said Queen Center Director Joyce Ah You.
Media Contact:
April Young Bennett
(801) 703-0127

Princess Kate's 'Morning Sickness' Familiar to Utah Moms, and Treatable

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The announcement of a royal baby was greeted with excitement around the world, as well as with concern for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was hospitalized with severe morning sickness, or ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’. Translated from Latin, this literally means ‘severe and excessive vomiting during pregnancy’.

“This illness can be serious,” says Al Romeo, PhD and nurse with the Utah Department of Health’s Pregnancy Risk Line (PRL), “and it isn’t just in the morning.  For some women, it can last all day for weeks and even months.”

Some nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy (NVP) is usual, but when it becomes excessive, health care providers may step in to offer treatment. Hyperemesis gravidarum can cause significant problems with hydration, electrolyte balances, and nutrition.

It’s estimated that 80% of all pregnant women encounter nausea during their pregnancy.  Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) impact not only the mother’s and fetus’s health, but also may affect daily responsibilities, such as work, during this period of time.

NVP can also have a negative impact on family relationships. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for hyperemesis gravidarum.

“We are speculating that Catherine is getting anti-emetic medications like ondansetron (known as Zofran) or a medication called promethazine. Both are prescribed in pregnancy to treat serious symptoms,” says University of Utah College of Pharmacy student Mike Wright. “She’s also likely getting IV fluids to replace what she’s lost from vomiting.”

The first line treatment often used by health care providers is an over-the-counter combination of doxylamine and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which is the best-studied of all NVP treatments. The combination has been shown to be the safest medication and is used frequently in Canada, but not as often in the U.S.

"Physicians have different prescribing practices here in the States and tend to give prescription ondansetron first, instead of doxylamine with B6,” said Wright, who is rotating through the Risk Line as part of his studies. “Ondansetron is a more expensive medication but is one of the strongest anti-emetics available.

“Pregnant women should talk to their health care provider before starting any medications. If you are having NVP, don’t wait long before talking to your health care provider about options,” said Dr. Romeo. “Studies have shown that the sooner medications are taken to relieve the NVP, the less likely a mom is to develop the more serious hyperemesis gravidarum and need to be hospitalized.”

For more information on pregnancy and breastfeeding, contact the Pregnancy Risk Line at 800-822-2229 (BABY). The PRL is a free service for Utah families and health care providers and has been answering questions about the effects of medicines, chemicals and other maternal exposures on a developing fetus or breastfed baby for nearly 30 years. 

Media Contact:Julia Robertson
Pregnancy Risk Line