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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

50 Years of Saving Babies' Lives

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Many Utah children who are born with genetic disorders and survive ― and thrive―can thank one very passionate father from New York. The year was 1963, and Dr. Bob Guthrie was determined to learn why his then 16-year-old son John had been born mentally disabled. Using common household items like filter paper, an office hole punch and kitchen glassware, he created a simple way of collecting blood samples from infants and testing them for PKU, a condition in which the body can’t break down a certain protein. That protein builds up in the brain causing irreversible mental impairment. His son did not have PKU, but the disease afflicted his then 15-month-old niece, Margaret.

Fifty years later, Utah hospitals collect blood from every child born in the state through a simple heel stick. Two newborn screening specimens are collected on special filter paper, and tested for 38 different disorders. The first screen is usually done between 48 hours and 5 days of life, or right before discharge from the hospital. “Identifying infants with these disorders early is so important,” said Dr. Harper Randall. “They can get treatment, early intervention for physical and mental disabilities, and live longer healthier, lives.”

From 1991 to 2011, 989,684 – or nearly a million – babies were tested in Utah hospitals. Of those, nearly 4,600 were found to have one of the 38 disorders, including PKU, cystic fibrosis, hypothyroidism, and a variety of blood diseases, including sickle cell disease.

“Many of these disorders are not apparent at birth and there are severe consequences if left undetected,” said Dr. Nicola Longo, Director of the Metabolic Clinic at the University of Utah. “But early diagnosis and therapy can prevent intellectual disability and in some cases death,” Longo added.

The University Healthcare clinic follows more than 200 patients with PKU and hundreds more with other disorders who have benefited from newborn screening. “With screening, patents can achieve what they would have achieved without the disorder. This is one of the most effective systems to improve people’s health,” said Longo 

Stacy Shaw’s second child, Emmalyn, was born in May of 2011. Her first few weeks of life were hard. “She seemed so different from her older brother,” said Stacy. “She wasn’t gaining weight, so we thought she was allergic to milk. Once we were sent to the ER thinking she had a bowel obstruction,” she added.

A few days later, Emmalyn’s pediatrician called about her newborn screening results. Emmalyn had cystic fibrosis. 

“Although the diagnosis of CF has been hard, we are grateful the newborn screening caught it at such a young age, giving us a chance to keep her as healthy as possible,” Stacy said.

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Media Contact:
Cyndi Bemis
Public Information Specialist
(o) 801-538-6348
(m) 801-865-0648