Thursday, December 19, 2013

Immunizations: The gift that keeps on giving!

(Salt Lake City, UT) – “It’s better to give than to receive” is a common saying this time of year. But when it comes to immunizations, Utah’s public health departments want to remind everyone that just the opposite is true: It’s better to receive a vaccination, than to give somebody your illness!

A recent report from the Trust for America’s Health highlighted the important role immunizations play in a state’s ability to respond to an infectious disease outbreak. While Utah’s immunization rates for school-age children are improving for some vaccines, there is room for improvement when it comes to preschool aged children being immunized against whooping cough and adults being immunized against influenza.

“The general public can play a huge role in our state’s ability to respond to disease outbreaks,” said Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Executive Director Dr. David Patton. “You’re not only protecting your own health by being vaccinated, you’re also protecting everyone you come into contact with by not spreading disease to them.”

Public health departments use various strategies to increase public and healthcare provider awareness about the importance of vaccination, such as assessing childhood immunization levels in schools, childcare facilities, public health and private health clinics and providing feedback on strategies for improving vaccination levels.

“Infectious disease outbreaks can impact the entire community,” said Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards. “Kids will miss school, parents will miss work, employers will see productivity decline, and the health care system can be stretched to capacity. Fortunately, this can largely be avoided if people are adequately immunized.”

Two key strategies UDOH has implemented to increase vaccination levels include the Vaccination Locator and the Immunization Reminder Service. The Vaccination Locator is a web-based system that allows Utah residents to locate influenza and other vaccines throughout Utah.The Immunization Reminder Service automatically reminds enrolled parents when their children’s immunizations are due. Both are located on the Immunization Program website at

Each year in the U.S., approximately 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. In Utah, since 2009, 99 people have died from pneumococcal disease, a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world.  Other vaccine-preventable illnesses that have resulted in Utah deaths over the past several years include hepatitis A and mumps. And each year, it’s estimated that 360 Utahns die from influenza. The best way to protect against all these illnesses is vaccination.

To avoid becoming ill, or spreading the sickness to others, follow these simple steps.
Wash hands often with soap and water.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or cough into your elbow. Wash your hands after throwing the tissue in the trash.
Stay home if you’re ill and stay away from sick people whenever possible.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread this way. 
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone is ill.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have been exposed to the flu and think you may be infected.
Take antiviral medication only if your healthcare provider recommends them.

For more information on what immunizations are recommended for adults and children, talk to your health care provider, local health department or visit

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
Health Program Specialist

Friday, December 13, 2013

Local Teens Illuminate Deceptive E-Cigarette Vapors

(Salt Lake City, UT)— “Come and get it!” As food trucks clamor for your lunch money, someone else is getting your kids’ lunch money – and it’s not your ordinary street cart vendor. On December 13th from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., there will be a ‘Stuff’ Cart at the south end of the Gateway Mall (below the movie theaters) offering ambiguous “stuff” and delivering an important message about e-cigarettes.

The Stuff Cart is sponsored by Outrage!, a statewide youth coalition dedicated to telling Utahns about the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes. Just like the stuff displayed at their cart, e-cigarettes and nicotine vaporizers are sold in youth-appealing flavors, marketed in areas with youth traffic, and have no ingredient labels.

“Through our ‘See Through the Vapor’ statewide campaign, we are calling for concern over the increasing popularity and easy access of e-cigarettes among teens,” said Reagan Rees, local teen and Outrage! member.

Despite having no legal access to e-cigarettes, recent data released by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) show that Utah youth are three times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults. The devices are often marketed as cessation devices, although 31.7% of students that reported ever using e-cigarettes say they have never tried conventional cigarettes, raising fears that electronic cigarettes are the preferred nicotine product of choice for youth.

“With the ingredients and dangers unknown, tempting candy-like flavors, celebrity endorsed marketing campaigns, and trends toward increasing use, monitoring youth access to these devices is a public health priority,” said Adam Bramwell, Marketing Manager, UDOH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

This launch event will be followed by similar localized ‘Stuff’ Cart events by Outrage! youth across the state through the month of January.

A sneak peek at the ‘Stuff’ Cart can be seen at online.

Media Contact:
Adam Bramwell
Marketing Manager
(o) 801.538.6917 (m) 801.380.0780

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gonorrhea Cases Up 94 Percent in Utah

(Salt Lake City) – Preliminary data from the Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology indicate that 633 cases of gonorrhea were reported statewide from January 1 through September 30, 2013 compared with 327 cases reported during the same period in 2012.  This jump represents a 94% increase.  In 2012, a total of 480 cases were reported in Utah.

Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease (after chlamydia) and the fifth most frequently reported communicable disease in Utah. The bacteria are spread through sexual contact with an infected partner. The infection often has no symptoms.  If symptoms are present, they may include discharge or painful urination. Serious long-term health issues can occur if the disease isn’t treated, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and an increased likelihood of acquiring HIV and other STDs.

Lynn Meinor, Program Manager for the UDOH’s Communicable Disease Prevention Program says, “Over the past five years, gonorrhea in Utah has been diagnosed primarily among males.  However in 2013, there are increased cases among females  and within the heterosexual population.”  In 2012, 73% of reported cases were among males, while 27% of cases were among females.  In the first three quarters of 2013, 60% of cases have been among males, while females comprised 40%.

The Salt Lake County Health Department reports an increase in gonorrhea cases that mirrors the statewide increase.  Health experts recommend testing for anyone who is sexually active, particularly anyone with new and/or multiple sexual partners even if they do not have symptoms. “People often don’t test because they have no symptoms.  They like to think that they would know if they had an infection, and this is simply a myth,” says Lynn Beltran, Epidemiology Supervisor, Bureau of Infectious Diseases at Salt Lake County Health Department.  “We are at the point with this increase that we need people to be talking about it, and we want people to get tested to ensure their well-being,” Beltran adds.  Salt Lake County accounted for 72% of the gonorrhea cases from January through September 2013.

Gonorrhea is treatable, but the bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics over the years.  As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised the gonorrhea treatment guidelines in 2012, and treatment for gonorrhea now requires a single dose injection plus oral antibiotics taken either as a single dose or twice a day for 7 days.  For more information on treatment guidelines visit

Media Contacts:
Lynn Meinor, UDOH
(801) 538-6198 (desk)
(801) 557-1785 (cell)
Pam Davenport, SLCoHD, PIO
(385) 468-4122 (desk)
(801) 209-0986 (cell)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moms, Children Benefit from WIC Improvements

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Each month, the Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program serves an average of 66,000 clients, including moms, babies, and children up to age five. This month, the WIC program announced the results of a participant survey that shows 71% percent feel the services they receive are “excellent.”  More than a quarter (27%) rated the services as “good.”

WIC launched in Utah in 1972 and focused primarily on providing supplemental, nutritious food.  Today, WIC does that through vouchers used at grocery stores. WIC staff also offer nutrition education and counseling to low-income families, referrals to health care and social services, breastfeeding classes and breast pumps for nursing moms, and information on the dangers of smoking. Staff at local WIC clinics across the state regularly educate clients about proper nutrition, and work to help them better understand how to use their food vouchers.

The survey found that 97.1% of participants were aware of the breastfeeding classes. As well, 91.5% understood that peer counselors were available through WIC to support  breastfeeding moms. Peer counselors are breastfeeding mothers who were on WIC and were successful with breastfeeding, and who now share their expertise with other WIC moms. A separate, more recent report showed that 76% of mothers enrolled in WIC initiated breastfeeding statewide.

“Of course we’re thrilled with the survey results,” said WIC Manager Chris Furner, “but we’re most pleased with the fact that the program is helping to make those families’ lives better. The fact that overall satisfaction among WIC participants is as high as it is a testament to the great work that the 250 local WIC staff are doing across the state.”

The survey also asked clients what health changes their families have made since enrolling in the program. Seventy-one percent indicated eating more fruits and  vegetables. More than half (53%) reported eating more whole grain foods. Forty-one percent said they drink less soda and sugar-sweetened drinks, 30% said they are more physically active, and 31% say they now eat more low-fat food.

“Our WIC family members are leading healthy lives,” said Dr. Shaheen Hossain, lead author of the research report and Manager of the Data Resources Program. The survey results also show WIC participants are learning about nutrition and applying that information to make positive changes in their food choices as well as in their lifestyles.

“They are not only eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, they are also spending more time eating as a family,” Hossain added.  “Parents with healthy lifestyles tend to teach and support healthy habits in their children.”  The nutritional education component provided by WIC appears to play a prominent role in promoting more healthful food choices.

In an effort to save money and provide services to more families, Utah WIC staff lobbied the federal government in 2010 to allow clients to purchase store brand foods instead of pricier name brands. The change was made, and since then a vast majority (84%) of respondents have indicated their satisfaction with the store brands now available.

“When our clients are happy, we’re happy,” said Furner. “But we also know there is always room for improvement. For example, nearly one in four clients said they “sometimes” or “never” buy all of the foods available on their vouchers, which means families are missing out on important nutrients.”  Furner adds that WIC staff will contact enrollees to help them understand the benefits of the healthy food packages and teach them how to use WIC foods in their meal planning.

For more information on the WIC program visit The survey report can be found at

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The mission of the Utah Department of Health is to protect the public's health through preventing avoidable illness, injury, disability and premature death, assuring access to affordable, quality health care, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Utah Pacific Islander Infant Mortality Rate Drops

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Office of Health Disparities (OHD) has completed a three-year State Partnership Grant from the Federal Office of Minority Health and successfully applied for a new grant. During the recent grant cycle, Utah OHD helped the Utah Pacific Islander community lower its infant mortality rate from 7.4/1,000 births in 2004-2007 to 3.6/1,000 in 2008-2011.  That’s a drop of nearly 48 percent. 

The Office also conducted the first-ever statewide surveillance study of Pacific Islanders in the continental United States, created health promotion videos in English, Samoan, and Tongan, and developed culturally appropriate health promotion and health care referral programs.

“We’re just so excited that Pacific Islander women have been willing to be a part of these projects, that they’re sharing this information with their families, and that our community is making a difference,” said Joyce Ah You, Director of the Queen Center, which has worked closely with OHD and other Pacific Islander groups to address the infant mortality problem.

Utah is one of only 22 states to receive a State Partnership Grant for the next two years. Of the 46 states that were funded during the previous grant cycle, 24 were not refunded. Of the 22 states that received grants, about half received a funding reduction from the previous grant cycle. In contrast, Utah OHD was funded at the same annual level of funding as previously: $130,000/year. 

During the upcoming grant cycle, Utah OHD is seeking to maintain the recent improvement in Pacific Islander infant health and to replicate this success in the Utah African American/Black community. OHD and its partners met their goals for African American/Black infant mortality during the previous grant cycle, reducing the rate from 8.4/1,000 births in 2004-2007 to 7.6/1,000 in 2008-2011. However, the new rate is still much higher than the statewide rate of 5.0/1,000 in 2008-2011.  

Utah OHD is also expanding a project piloted during the previous grant cycle that identifies underserved community members at risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and then links them to health care providers.

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The mission of the Utah Department of Health is to protect the public's health through preventing avoidable illness, injury, disability and premature death, assuring access to affordable, quality health care, and promoting healthy lifestyles.                                                           

Friday, October 25, 2013

Building Successful Families . . . Some Assembly Required

What:  Utah Department of Health, Office of Home Visiting is sponsoring a conference for practitioners in the field of home visiting; “Building Successful Families . . . Some Assembly required”.

Why:   Home Visiting is a growing movement across the nation and in Utah that focuses on: teaching parenting skills in a parent’s natural environment (the home); identifying solutions to child developmental and/or family problems, and; using the parents’ and extended family’s own experiences as the foundation for learning and improving. 

Who:   Featured Keynote speaker is Dan Powers, LCSW, LSOTP,  Sr. Vice President and Clinical Director, Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County in Plano, Texas. Powers is best known for his spirited presentations on wellness and survival for child abuse professionals, which is the topic of his keynote address.

When:  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 7:30 am to 4:30 pm

Where: South Towne Expo Center,  9575 South State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah
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Media Contact:
Suzanne Leonelli
Program Coordinator

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

‘Unfinished Stories’ - Families of Teen Crash Victims Share Their Grief

(Salt Lake City, UT)  Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens across the U.S. In 2012, 21 families were devastated to learn that their teenager had been killed in a motor vehicle crash on Utah roads. Today, they shared their stories to encourage others to drive safely and buckle up.

Donna Sheeran’s 16-year-old daughter, Malone, rolled her car on April 23, 2012. She was on her way home from work when she crashed. She was not wearing a seat belt and suffered massive head trauma. Malone was a sophomore at Summit High School and had plans to attend Louisiana State University to study astrophysics.“We are so blessed to have had her in our lives,” said Sheeran. “We don’t know why the crash occurred, but we do believe that if she had been wearing her seat belt, she would have walked away with minor injuries.” Fewer than half of the teens killed on Utah roads in 2012 were wearing a seat belt.

This is the sixth year the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) have collected stories of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes. The book will be used by state and local agencies as a prevention tool to help young drivers realize the impact their decisions have on others. The books will also be distributed to high school driver education classes in the state. 

Robert Lindley lost his 18-year-old son, Zachery, in an auto-pedestrian crash. Zachery was hit and killed by a driver as he crossed the street on his skateboard. He underwent 10 brain surgeries and suffered numerous health problems over the next nine months as doctors tried to save his life. It wasn’t to be.

Lindley recalled how his son loved to skateboard everywhere he went, but that even as a young child he ignored his parents’ pleas and family rules to always wear his helmet. “Zachy would still be with us had he been wearing a helmet,” said Lindley. “Our regret in this is unspeakable and we miss our boy with every fiber of our beings. Don’t let this happen in your family.”

Utah Highway Safety Office data show that in 2012, 28 teen drivers were involved in a fatal crash. These crashes killed a total of 29 people, and nine of those were the teen drivers. Teen drivers were also 1.3 times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages.
“Research shows that policies like Graduated Driver Licensing laws and primary seat belt enforcement work,” said Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation. 

Involved parents who set rules and monitor their teen’s driving behavior in a supportive way can also cut the risk of a crash in half. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, teens whose parents are involved in their driving are twice as likely to wear seat belts, half as likely to speed, and 30 pecent less likely to talk on a cell phone while driving.

“This book we’ve compiled shows the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities,” said Jenny Johnson, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “These teens’ stories did not have to go unfinished. The simple decision to choose to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle can and does save lives.” 

To download a copy of “Unfinished Stories: 10 Stories, 10 Incomplete Lives, 10 Teens Who Died on Utah Roads” book, visit  or

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recognizing Utah’s Top-Notch Rural Health Care

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah’s rural communities are great places to live and work, but in some cases, residents have a hard time getting to the doctors and clinics they need for health care.  Some must drive more than an hour to find a physican or clinic. But according to Dr. Don Wood, the care they get when they arrive is as good as that in the big cities.  “Rural medical providers offer exceptional care which is equal to care that can be found in larger metropolitan areas,” says Wood.

Approximately 62 million people―one in five Americans―live in rural areas, and on Thursday, November 21, state and national leaders will spotlight the importance of rural health by observing National Rural Health Day.  In Utah, Governor Gary Herbert will name November 17-23 as Rural Health Week in Utah.  The designation is meant to reinforce a broad-based, deep-seated commitment from all sectors to improve access,  and the quality of health care for rural Utahns.

As part of Rural Health Week, the Utah Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) is holding a 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 2013.  Prizes will be given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.  Entries may be e-mailed to Owen QuiƱonez at by November 19, 2013.  Winners will be notified by December 2, 2013 and winning photos will be posted on the OPCHR website at

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, the Utah Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) contributes $540,000 in grants to rural health organizations to help residents access  primary care, mental health and dental services. This funding enables rural health care providers to serve Utahns in small communities, which comprise 95% of the state’s land mass. Additionally, OPCRH provides more than $150,000 in Small Hospitals Improvement Program (SHIP) grants to rural hospitals to support projects to improve health care in their communities.

For more information about National Rural Health Day, visit  To learn more about  the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), visit And for more information about the Utah Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, visit

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Media Contact:
Owen QuiƱonez
Community Health Specialist
(801) 273-6620