Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top 10 Public Health Stories in Utah in 2015

  1. UDOH welcomes Dr. Joseph Miner as new Executive Director – On August 3, 2015, Governor Gary R. Herbert announced Dr. Joseph Miner as the new Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health. Dr. Miner had previously led the Utah County Health Department for 32 years. He replaced David Patton who resigned in July to pursue a job opportunity in the private health care sector. 
  2. 7,100 people exposed to Hepatitis C – Public health initiated an investigation of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in connection with the emergency departments at McKay-Dee Hospital and Davis Hospital and Medical Center. It appeared the transmission of the disease was consistent with a situation where a hospital employee was diverting drugs. Approximately 7,100 people were notified of the possible exposure to HCV.
  3. Utah Medicaid Program – Utah’s Medicaid Program saw big changes in 2015. The governor’s Healthy Utah plan, which would extend Medicaid coverage to low-income adults, failed to pass in the 2015 legislative session. A modified plan, UtahAccess+, designed and unveiled by leaders of the House and Senate was voted down in October during a closed caucus meeting. This topic of conversation will likely continue in the 2016 legislative session. Additionally, on July 1, 2015, Medicaid expanded the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model to nine additional counties. Now members living in Cache, Rich, Morgan, Box Elder, Tooele, Wasatch, Summit, Iron, Washington in addition to the original Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, and Utah counties receive their care through an ACO. This model will help to better align financial incentives to control costs and to deliver appropriate care to Medicaid members. Now, more than 86% of Medicaid members receive services through an ACO and it is estimated that the ACOs produced $11 million of General Fund savings in the past two years.
    Finally, in December 2015, Utah’s Medicaid Director for the past 10 years, Michael Hales, announced his resignation to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Medicaid has an operating budget of nearly $2.5 billion and is a vital and essential part of Utah’s health care infrastructure; providing nearly 320,000 Utahns with access to health care each year. Hales also served as deputy director of the UDOH.
  4. Helping men maintain their mental health the “manly way” – Together with the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition and National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah, the Utah Department of Health launched a suicide prevention campaign for men ages 25-64 called Man Therapy. The campaign was highly successful; launching Utah to the #1 spot in terms of states with the highest traffic to mantherapy.org and garnering 1.2 million impressions on Pandora and 22.7K impressions on a single Facebook post. But most importantly, the humorous campaign is saving lives. Robert Kirby, a columnist with the Salt Lake Tribune, received an email from a reader who, after reading Kirby’s article on Man Therapy,  was encouraged to finally get help with his lifelong mental issues, likely saving his life that day.

  5. Buckle up – Effective May 12, 2015, not wearing a seat belt became a primary offense in Utah, meaning drivers could be pulled over by law enforcement just for not wearing a seat belt. Seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury in a crash. Research shows that states with primary seat belt laws have higher seat belt usage rates and lower motor vehicle fatality rates. To learn more and to hear stories of Utahns saved by wearing a seat belt, visit Zero Fatalities.
  6. Groundbreaking for the Unified State Laboratory – On June 29, 2015, officials from the Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Public Safety, Lt. Governor’s office, Utah Administrative Services, Utah State Legislature, Taylorsville City, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and Utah Division of Facilities, Construction, and Management broke ground on module 2 of the Unified State Laboratory. The new facility will house the State Medical Examiner, State Crime Lab, and food safety labs. The facilities will contain critically needed space to prevent overcrowding, modern safety and engineering features, and state-of-the-art equipment to keep the public safe for generations to come. Construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016.
  7. Utah youth e-cigarette usage nearly doubles – Data showed a substantial increase in the use of electronic cigarettes by youth in grades 8, 10, and 12; revealing that 10.5% of Utah youth reported they currently use e-cigarettes, nearly double the 5.8% reported in 2013. To download the full report, visit http://www.tobaccofreeutah.org/pdfs/tpcpfy15report.pdf.
  8. Measles outbreak in Utah County – Public health officials declared the end of a measles outbreak that infected three unvaccinated Utah residents and exposed nearly 400 others to the highly contagious virus. The cases were part of a large multi-state outbreak linked to Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure. 
  9. Newborn Screening (NBS) Program receives Governor's Award for Excellence for improving test turnaround times – All babies born in the state for 38 different disorders within the first few days of their lives. Newborn screening is critically dependent on timeliness, so the NBS program entered into a partnership with FedX and the Utah Hospital Association to ensure all blood samples would be received within three days at no cost to the hospital. Prior to this partnership, nearly 34% of newborn screening samples were received within 4-7 days of birth. Following the partnership, that rate dropped nearly in half to 19% and the overall average transport time has improved to less than 1.5 days. The improvement has already resulted in at least one success story: Within several days of the program’s implementation a baby born in a rural hospital was identified as having a life-threatening metabolic disorder. Through prompt screening, the disorder was treated and the baby is thriving. Without the timely screening, the baby most likely would not have survived. For these efforts, Governor Herbert honored the program with the Governor’s Award for Excellence.
  10. Autism services now available for medicaid recipients – As of July 1, 2015, autism spectrum disorders (ASD)-related services are now available to Medicaid recipients under the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment program. The program offers comprehensive preventive health care services for individuals younger than age 21 who are enrolled in Traditional Medicaid. ASD services can include diagnostic assessments and evaluations; therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy; and services rooted in principles of applied behavior analysis or ABA.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

State Medicaid Director Stepping Down

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today announced Michael Hales, who has served as Medicaid director for the past ten years, is stepping down to pursue opportunities in the private sector. In addition to overseeing the Medicaid program, Hales also serves as deputy director of the UDOH.

Hales oversaw one of the largest and most important programs in state government. Medicaid has an operating budget of nearly $2.5 billion, and is a vital and essential part of Utah’s health care infrastructure, providing nearly 320,000 Utahns with access to health care.

“Michael Hales has done a tremendous job in a demanding and challenging position in state government,” Gov. Gary R. Herbert said. “The complex program he directed was always in the spotlight. But his top priority was always the vulnerable Utahns who rely on the program to access health care.”

Under Hales’ leadership, the Medicaid program has undergone significant reforms that have benefited taxpayers and program recipients alike. In 2007 the program implemented the Medicaid Preferred Drug List (PDL); last year alone the PDL saved taxpayers $46 million. Hales also oversaw the conversion to Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations, essentially shifting health care providers to a model that values quality of care versus quantity of care for recipients. Several other Medicaid services have also been expanded under Hales’ watch, including services to cover children with autism and other medically complex conditions.

“As Medicaid director, Michael Hales worked tirelessly to ensure that Medicaid consumers were treated fairly and received appropriate care,” said Matt Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project. “Michael’s tenure saw great change and transition and he directed with a capable and steady hand to ensure the success of the Medicaid program for our friends, family and neighbors who utilize the program.” 

Nathan Checketts, currently serving as Medicaid deputy director, will assume the role of interim Medicaid director effective December 31, 2015. A search for Hales’ replacement will begin early next year. By state law, the Medicaid director is appointed by the governor, with advice and consent from the Utah State Senate.
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Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cases of E. coli Traced to Costco Chicken Salad

(Salt Lake City) – Utah public health officials are investigating a cluster of illness that may be associated with the consumption of chicken salad purchased at Costco. To date, cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported in seven states, including five cases in Utah.

The Utah cases range in age from 9 to 84, three are females and two are males. Two of the Utah cases were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Onset dates of Utah cases range from October 17, 2015 to October 30, 2015.

The Utah Department of Health is working with health partners, including the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Utah’s local health departments to investigate the illness. The UDAF assisted in the investigation by gathering product samples for testing and encouraged stores to remove the product from sale. Most of the cases, including four out of the five Utah cases, reported eating Costco chicken salad.

Although the chicken salad has not tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, there is a strong association between reported illness and eating the salad. Out of an abundance of caution, Costco removed the chicken salad from their Utah stores on Friday, November 20th. However, people who bought chicken salad may still have the product in their refrigerators.

Consumers with “Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” – item number 37719 – purchased from Costco in Utah should not eat it or feed it to your pets. You should either return it to the Costco store where it was purchased or throw the product away.

Other states with confirmed E. coli cases linked to the chicken salad include Colorado, Montana and Washington.

Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 usually appear two to 10 days after eating contaminated food and include: stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea which may contain blood. If there is a fever, it is usually not high (less than 101°F). Most people recover within 5-7 days, but some cases can be severe. Approximately 5-10% of those diagnosed with E. coli O157:H7 infection develops a potentially life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Some patients may appear to be improving before HUS develops. Signs that a person is developing HUS may include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. People with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

If you have recently eaten Costco chicken salad and are currently experiencing these symptoms, consult your health care provider.

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Media Contacts:
Becky Ward, UDOH
(o) 801-538-6682
(c) 801-352-1270
Larry Lewis, UDAF
(o) 801-538-7104
(c) 801-514-2152

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"We’ll Never Forget" Families of teen crash victims share their grief

(Salt Lake City, UT) – In 2014, 29 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, buckle up, and cherish your loved ones.

Angela Child’s 19-year-old daughter, Angel Stringfellow, rolled her car on October 9, 2014 as she and her friend were traveling to Dixie State University. As Angel passed a bus on the freeway, her tire blew out. She overcorrected and rolled down an embankment. Neither teen was wearing a seat belt. Angel was ejected and died from head and blunt force trauma.

“One simple decision to put on a seat belt could have saved my daughter’s life; and it will save yours! Don’t let your family lose you,” said Child.

In 2015, nearly half of all teens killed on Utah roads were not restrained. “Three out of four people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries. The simple decision to choose to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle can and does save lives,” said Carlos Braceras, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Executive Director.

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

“The Zero Fatalities effort to educate teens about how their actions can devastate others is an extremely effective preventive measure; something our legislators often ask for when considering how to spend taxpayer dollars,” said Carrie Moore, Executive Director of The Bradley Center for Grieving Children and Families. “Fatalities that never happen spare not only the families of the victims, but we avoid the very real social costs that often follow the loss of a loved one. The books show the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities. These teens’ memories will live on, and their stories will not be forgotten.”

On August 23, 2014, 15-year-old Jacob Santos and his grandmother, Ruth Nelson, were coming home from the Box Elder County Fair in Tremonton, Utah. Jacob was driving and didn’t see an oncoming truck as he made a left hand turn onto Highway 89. They were T-boned on the driver side of the vehicle and he and his grandmother were killed on impact.

“Jacob had his learner permit and was in need of more driving hours so he could get his license on his 16th birthday. His grandmother willingly let him drive her home because that’s what loving grandmas do,” said Deanne Brown, Jacob’s mother. “He had a lack of experience being a new driver. It doesn’t mean that Jacob’s grandmother was to blame. But how many accidents could be prevented if we paid closer attention?”  

Data from the Utah Highway Safety Office showed that in 2014, 32 teen drivers were involved in a fatal crash, killing a total of 33 people, including 15 of the teen drivers. Teen drivers were 1.8 times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages.

“Involved parents who set rules and monitor their teen’s driving behavior in a supportive way can cut their risk of a crash in half,” said Dr. Joseph Miner, UDOH Executive Director.  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 percent less likely to talk on a cell phone while driving.

To download a copy of the book We’ll Never Forget: Remembering 10 Lives Lost on Utah Roads, visit www.health.utah.gov/vipp or www.dontdrivestupid.com. 

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Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 385-290-7826

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Recognizing the Quality of Utah’s Rural Hospitals

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) is pleased to announce that two Utah hospitals, Milford Valley Hospital and Kane County Hospital, have been recognized by the National Rural Health Resource Center for being in the top 20 hospitals in the nation for financial stability.  In addition, Gunnison Valley Hospital, a critical access hospital, has been singled out for excellence and innovation in the area of care coordination.

Dr. Don Wood, Director of the Utah Department of Health’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) says, “These recognitions for Utah’s rural hospitals remind us that health care delivered in rural communities is affordable, high quality, and necessary to the continued good health of the entire community. These hospitals should serve as role models to all hospitals.”

Each year, rural hospitals are ranked by the Hospital Strength INDEXTM, the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of hospital performance in the United States.  The release of this information coincides with National Rural Health Week, November 15-21, 2015.

In addition, 19 Utah hospitals received recognition for reaching top quartile performance status in Quality, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, and Financial Strength, as compared to all other acute care hospitals in the nation.

Those facilities include:
Ashley Regional Medical Center – Outcomes, Financial Strength
Bear River Valley Hospital – Quality, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength
Beaver Valley Hospital – Outcomes
Castleview Hospital – Quality, Financial Strength
Central Valley Medical Center – Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength
Delta Community Medical Center – Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction
Fillmore Community Medical Center – Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction
Garfield Memorial Hospital – Quality, Patient Satisfaction
Gunnison Valley Hospital – Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength
Heber Valley Medical Center – Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength
Kane County Hospital – Financial Strength
Milford Valley Memorial Hospital – Outcomes, Financial Strength
Moab Regional Hospital – Outcomes
Mountain West Medical Center – Financial Strength
Park City Medical Center – Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength
San Juan Hospital – Outcomes
Sanpete Valley Hospital – Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction
Sevier Valley Medical Center – Quality, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength
Valley View Medical Center – Quality, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Financial Strength

Since 2010, 50 rural and critical care access hospitals have closed throughout the United States.  Wood says, “Fortunately, Utah is one of the states in which a rural hospital has never closed. We want to maintain these hospitals because they provide extraordinary care and also contribute to the economies of our rural communities.”  

Owen Quiñonez 
Community Health Specialist

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving is National Family Health History Day: UDOH urges Utahns to know their family health history of cancer

(Salt Lake City) – Family health history is an important tool in understanding a person’s risk of developing cancer. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is encouraging Utahns to take advantage of Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings as an opportunity to ask family members three important questions: (1) who in their family has ever had cancer, (2) what type of cancer did they have, and (3) at what age were they diagnosed.

“While these questions may seem simple, the answers could change how often you need to have certain cancer screenings or even what treatment options you should consider,” said Lynette Phillips, Director of the UDOH Cancer Control Program. “When healthcare providers and genetic counselors know your family history, they can help you come up with a personalized plan for your future.”

The UDOH urges Utahns to speak with a genetic counselor if they notice any of these red flags in their family history:
  • Blood relatives that had cancer, such breast or colon cancer before age 50.
  • Two or more blood relatives on the same side of the family that had the same type of cancer or related cancers. For example, breast and ovarian cancers are related, as are colorectal and uterine cancer.
  • Blood relatives that had more than one type of cancer.
  • Blood relatives that had a rare type of cancer or tumor.
Most people who develop cancer have no family history of it, but occasionally cancer can run in families due to their genetic make-up. Sharing your family health history with a healthcare provider or genetic counselor can help determine if you are at a higher risk for certain cancers than most people. People who are at higher risk may benefit from starting cancer screenings at a younger age, having more frequent cancer screenings, or undergoing more advanced screenings such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Medications or surgical procedures may also help prevent or delay cancer in high-risk individuals.

There are a variety of medical tests which can identify whether or not individuals and families have a genetic condition, such as Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer or Lynch Syndrome, which increases their risk for cancer. It’s important for individuals having these tests to know what they’re being tested for, what the possible outcomes may be, and what their options are after getting the results.

More tools and information about family health history collection, genetic counseling and testing, Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, Lynch Syndrome, and resources for healthcare providers are available on http://cancerutah.org/genomicseducation.


Media Contact:
Katie McMinn
Cancer Control Program
801-538-6233 (o)
801-856-6697 (m)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Utah Organizations Launch “Eat Well, America, Combat Childhood Obesity” Campaign

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Is the way to a child’s health through his stomach? Three Utah organizations believe it is. This November, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), American Diabetes Association®, and National Tongan American Society will launch the “Eat Well, America, Combat Childhood Obesity” campaign. The campaign is designed to raise awareness and show Utahns living with or at risk for diabetes, their loved ones, and anyone wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle how easy and enjoyable healthy eating can be.

Nearly 145,000 Utahns have been diagnosed with diabetes. “For years, our organizations have participated in American Diabetes Month observed each November to raise awareness of this devastating disease,” said Brenda Ralls, Epidemiologist for UDOH.  “Healthy lifestyles could help prevent a large proportion of type 2 diabetes and healthy eating is one way we can help reduce our risk of diabetes.”

Obesity is a health risk at any age, however preventing obesity through a healthy diet is particularly beneficial for children. Obese children have greater risk of prediabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, and social and psychological problems.

“Eating well is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and enjoying delicious, healthy food helps with diabetes management,” said Jeff Bird, Executive Director of the Utah American Diabetes Association office. 

Fahina Tavake-Pasi, Executive Director of the National Tongan American Society, states that “Pacific Islanders have one of the highest rate of obesity in Utah. We also have a high rate of death caused by diabetes. The National Tongan American Society is excited to add our support to this campaign and to help decrease obesity and diabetes in our community.”

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among Utah adults aged 25 to 74. It is the 7th leading cause of death for Utahns and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke by two to four times. Amputation of the toe, foot, or leg can occur as a result of diabetes; with about 250 hospital discharges for lower-extremity amputations among Utahns with diabetes occurring each year.

Diabetes also places an enormous burden on Utah’s health care system. Approximately $1 billion is spent annually in Utah for treatment of diabetes and related costs.

A march to kick-off the campaign will be held on World Diabetes Day, Saturday, November 14th. The march will begin at 10:00 a.m. on the corner of 100 South State Street and end at the Utah State Capitol. Following the march there will be a brief program scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. in the rotunda. All are welcome.

For more information about healthy eating and how to prevent diabetes and obesity, visit www.choosehealth.utah.gov.

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Media Contact:
Dave Mecham 
EPICC Program
(801) 538-6654

Monday, November 9, 2015

Top 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

(Salt Lake, UT) – The holidays may be filled with cheer but for many Utah families, the busyness and stress of this time of year is also filled with challenge and heartache as their loved ones suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease was the 6th leading cause of death for Utahns in 2014, claiming 584 lives. An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages are living with the disease.

“Traditional holiday activities may change as families cope with a loved one’s changing behavior or memory loss,” said Lynn Meinor, Alzheimer’s State Plan Specialist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). “Avoiding situations that further confuse or frustrate the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is important, and involving your loved ones in holiday plans early on can help them feel safe and included.”

While Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented or cured, early diagnosis can help individuals and families get proper treatment and prepare for the future. Individuals may experience one or more of the top 10 warning signs in varying degrees:
  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over again, or needing to rely on memory aids or family members for things they used to be able to handle on their own.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems, such as having trouble following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as trouble driving to a familiar location, remembering the rules of a favorite game, or forgetting how to do tasks at work.  
  4. Confusion with time or place, such as forgetting where they are or how they got there or understanding if something is not happening immediately.  
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, such as difficulty with reading, judging distances, or determining colors or contrasts.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, such as following a conversation, repeating themselves over and over again, finding the right word, or calling things by the wrong name.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. People with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places, lose things, or accuse others of stealing because they can’t remember where they placed an item.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may mismanage money, giving large amounts to telemarketers, or pay less attention to grooming and personal appearance.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities or trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or completing a favorite hobby.
  10. Changes in mood and personality, such as becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.
“Each individual is unique and may show signs of Alzheimer's disease in different degrees” says Melissa Lee, Communication Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter. “If you notice any of them in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. With early detection, you can get the maximum benefit from the treatments that are available.”

Utah is projected to have one of the highest per capita prevalence increases in Alzheimer’s disease among all states. In response to this unprecedented growth, the Utah State Legislature provided funding to the UDOH in 2015 to implement the Utah State Plan for Alzheimer’s disease and Related Dementias.

Free resources for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease are available by calling the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or by visiting http://alz.org/utah.

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Media Contact:
Lynn Meinor
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6198
Melissa Lee
Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter
(o) 801-265-1944

Monday, October 26, 2015

Utah Launches Man Therapy™ to Help Men Maintain their Mental Health the “Manly Way”

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Adult men represented approximately three of every four suicide deaths in Utah last year. Today, the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition announced the launch of a new statewide campaign for working-aged men to erase the stigma surrounding mental health. Man Therapy™ reshapes the conversation, using humor to cut through stigma and tackle issues like depression, divorce, and even suicidal thoughts head on, “the way a man would do it.”

Man Therapy provides men approaching crisis, and the people who care about them, a place to go and learn more about men’s mental health, examine their own mental health, and consider a wide array of actions that will put them on the path to treatment and recovery, all within an easy-to-access online portal at www.mantherapy.org.

The campaign brings to life a fictional character, Dr. Rich Mahogany, a man’s man who is dedicated to cutting through the denial and gives practical, useful advice for men. “The straightforward and humorous approach of Man Therapy debunks the age-old stigma that says mental health disorders are an unmanly sign of weakness,” said Kimball Gardner, Program Director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah.

“The campaign’s racy humor may raise some eyebrows but when it comes to preventing suicide among this hard-to-reach audience, we needed to try something out-of-the-box that is still research-based,” said Andrea Hood, Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Utah Department of Health. “We expect to see similar success to that of other states.” 

Man Therapy was developed in Colorado and is now available in Idaho, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. To date,
  • More than 85,000 men have taken the Man Therapy 18-Point Head Inspection, a five-minute online quiz to assess a person’s mental health, and receive their individualized results and suggestions for therapy.
  • More than 25,000 men have clicked on the national suicide crisis line phone number provided on the site.
  • More than 11,000 men have clicked to identify a counselor or therapist.
  • 83% of website visitors would recommend Man Therapy to a friend in need.
  • 60% of website visitors would definitely or very likely take action and use the information and strategies provided to seek help and improve their mental health.

“This campaign goes beyond just awareness to really engage men and draw them into the conversation,” said Kim Myers, Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Department of Human Services. “We feel it is critical to bring this important tool to Utah to reach both men and their loved ones. With Man Therapy, you can learn about mental health and the options to increase your mental health wellness range from do-it-yourself techniques all the way to professional therapy and resources.” 

A total of 555 Utahns died from suicide in 2014. All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the UNI CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

To learn how to tackle life’s stressors and improve your mental health, visit http://utahsuicideprevention.org/ or www.mantherapy.org. 

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Media Contacts:
Andrea Hood
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6599
Kimball Gardner
(o) 801-869-2877 (m) 719-964-1418

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Utah Minorities Continue to Lag Behind in Health

(Salt Lake City, UT) – While Utah consistently ranks among the nation’s “healthiest states,” a new report released by the Utah Department of Health Office of Health Disparities (OHD) shows that major health concerns still exist among Utah’s rapidly growing minority communities. 

“Roughly one out of every five Utahns belong to an ethnic or racial minority group other than White. In fact, several cities in Salt Lake County are projected to be minority-majority communities within the next 20 years,” said Jake Fitisemanu, Outreach Coordinator with the OHD. “As the population diversifies, the data provided in our report can help policymakers, public health agencies, and health care institutions better plan for the needs of our minority community members.” 

While the data showed many health indicators have not improved significantly over time, several notable improvements were seen. For example, colon cancer screening is more common among Hispanics/Latinos aged 50 and older in 2015 than it was 15 years ago. Additionally, there has been an increase in mammograms among Asians and Blacks/African Americans as well as an increase in folic acid consumption among Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders women. And all racial/ethnic groups saw a decrease in teen pregnancy.

The 2015 Health Status by Race and Ethnicity report is the third edition in a series spanning 15 years. Data in the reports cover approximately 70 health topics, ranging from cancer and chronic diseases to maternal health and preventive services. Data compared underrepresented communities to the state population overall, and, where feasible, to previous editions of the report. Not all of the topics from the 2005 report were included in the 2010 or 2015 reports, and some indicators were measured with different methodologies; however, the reports can help identify general community health trends.

The full report is available at health.utah.gov/disparities/data.html#utahhealth.  

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Media Contact:
Jake Fitisemanu
Office of Health Disparities 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Should Be Fun, Not Dangerous for Children: Kids 2x as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day

(Salt Lake City, UT) – On average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year. But a few simple precautions for kids and drivers can make the night fun and safe.

Safe Kids Utah, led by the Utah Department of Health, has joined together with FedEx® to promote pedestrian safety this Halloween. FedEx volunteers are teaming up with 159 local Safe Kids coalitions in towns and cities across the United States to provide reflective materials and safe walking information to parents and children.

“On Halloween, more children are out-and-about after dark than normal. They are so excited that they may run out into the street without thinking,” said Cambree Applegate of Safe Kids Utah. “We’re asking drivers to take extra care and slow down on neighborhood roads. And, of course, it’s very important that drivers put down mobile devices to avoid distraction.”

Halloween safety tips for kids:
  • Costumes can be both creative and safe. The most important thing is to make sure you can be seen by drivers. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors. Masks can obstruct your vision, so choose non-toxic face paint and make-up whenever possible. Carry glow sticks or flashlights so you can see better, as well as be seen by drivers.
  • Cross the street safely at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right, and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
  • Put electronic devices down and keep heads up. Walk, don’t run, across the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Slow down and stay alert. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up and don’t dart out into the street or cross in between parked cars. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
Halloween safety tips for drivers:
  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours are from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Be especially alert and take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians, and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
For more tips to keep your kids safe on Halloween, and throughout the year, visit www.safekidsutah.org or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/safekidsutah.

Safe Kids Utah works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Its members include Primary Children’s Hospital, Utah Department of Public Safety, Utah Safety Council, University of Utah Hospital, Local Health Departments, Zero Fatalities, Utah State PTA, AAA, Utah Poison Control Center, and the Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Safe Kids Utah is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Utah was founded in 1997 and is led by the Utah Department of Health.

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Media Contact:
Cambree Applegate
Safe Kids Utah Coordinator
(o) 801-538-6852 (m) 435-862-8773

Friday, October 9, 2015

Take Control of Your Arthritis: 1 out of every 5 Utahns suffer from chronic joint pain

(Salt Lake, UT) – New data released by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) show that one out of every five adults in Utah – more than 400,000 people – have arthritis. Data also show that arthritis is the leading cause of disability and activity limitation in Utah. But the good news is people with arthritis can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

“Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, early diagnosis and proper management can greatly improve your quality of life,” said Rebecca Castleton, program manager for the UDOH Arthritis Program.

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, usually causing joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. While arthritis can affect anyone, women and those over the age of 45 are at greater risk of developing symptoms. Previous joint injuries, a family history of arthritis, and being overweight also increase your risk of getting arthritis.

Tips to reduce arthritis pain and improve your quality of life include:
  • Keep those joints moving. Research shows that low-impact exercises such as walking, bicycling, and swimming can decrease arthritis pain.
  • Learn how to manage your arthritis. Free self-management education classes, such as Living Well with Chronic Conditions, are available statewide to help people suffering from arthritis learn techniques for managing pain. To find a class near you, visit http://health.utah.gov/arthritis/workshop_search
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight places more stress on your joints and contributes to joint pain. Losing even 10 pounds can reduce the stress on each knee by up to 40 pounds and the stress on each hip by 30 pounds.
  • Talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis and proper management is important, especially for inflammatory types of arthritis. For example, early use of disease-modifying drugs can change the course of rheumatoid arthritis. If you have symptoms of arthritis, talk to your doctor and begin appropriate treatment as soon as possible.
  • Protect your joints. Learning how to avoid excess stress on your joints will make doing daily tasks easier. For example, using your forearms or palms to carry your grocery bag instead of your fingers can help ease arthritis pain.

October 12, 2015 is World Arthritis Day, a global initiative bringing people together to raise awareness of issues affecting people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. Additional information on World Arthritis Day is available at http://worldarthritisday.org.

For more information about managing your arthritis, including a list of arthritis exercise and self-management classes across the state, visit http://health.utah.gov/arthritis/classes.  

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Media Contact:
Rebecca Castleton
Utah Arthritis Program
(o) 801-538-9340 (m) 253-503-9755

Monday, October 5, 2015

UDOH Releases Annual Report on Healthcare-associated Infections

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has released the 2014 hospital-specific report of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in licensed hospitals.* The report provides information on specific types of HAIs that are reportable in Utah, including central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), surgical site infections (SSIs) associated with colon surgeries and abdominal hysterectomies, Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia infections.

Utah State regulation (Rule 386‐705, Epidemiology, Healthcare-associated Infection) requires the UDOH to collect and report data on HAIs. The Utah data are self-reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) by each facility that is required to report HAIs by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • Overall results from 2014 show that Utah had significantly fewer CLABSIs than the national rate, but significantly more CAUTIs and colon SSIs than the national rate.
  • Utah inpatient rehabilitation facilities had significantly more CAUTIs than the national rate.
  • Utah long-term acute care facilities had significantly fewer CAUTIs than the national rate.
  • There was not a significant difference from the national rate for SSIs associated with abdominal hysterectomies.
  • Utah acute care facilities had significantly fewer C. difficile infections compared to the national rate.
  • Utah acute care facilities had significantly fewer MRSA bacteremia infections compared to the national rate.
Dr. Allyn Nakashima, UDOH State Epidemiologist says, “Utah continues to see improvement in reducing HAIs. We encourage collaborations among all healthcare facilities across the state to identify “best practices” in infection control to further reduce HAIs.”

The Healthcare-associated Infections Annual Report includes a full year of reported HAI data for 2014. Annual reports are published every October. The reports contain information for all infections required to be reported to NHSN by CMS according to the CMS Healthcare Facility HAI Reporting Requirements timeline. To read the entire HAI Report, visit http://health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/HAI/surveillance/2014_HAI_Report.pdf.

*Licensed hospitals include acute care, long-term acute care, critical access, rehabilitation, psychiatric, government and children’s hospitals.


Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
(o) 801-538-6682 
(c) 801-352-1270

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Medically Complex Children’s Waiver Now Accepting New Applicants

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Medically Complex Children’s Waiver will open enrollment today for the first time after being authorized by the Utah State Legislature in the 2015 General Session (H.B. 199). The program will accept applications through Thursday, October 29. This program is intended to serve children with disabilities and complex medical conditions, providing them access to respite services, as well as traditional Medicaid services. The waiver was designed as a pilot program authorized to run through June 30, 2018 and serve approximately 165 children, from birth through age 18.

In order to qualify for the Medically Complex Children’s Waiver, the child must:
Be age 0-18
Have three or more specialty physicians
Have three or more organ systems involvement
Demonstrate a level of medical complexity based on a combination of need for device-based supports, high utilization of medical therapies, and treatments and frequent need for medical intervention
Have a disability determined by the Social Security Administration or the State Medical Review Board

Unlike traditional Medicaid, only the child’s income and assets are considered when determining the child’s eligibility for this program; the parent’s income and assets are not considered.  Children currently enrolled in traditional Medicaid will not be automatically eligible for the program and will also need to apply.

Applicants will not be selected for enrollment on a first-come-first-served basis. Once the application period ends, if more than 165 applications are received, UDOH clinical staff will review the applications and base entrance into the program on the highest medical complexity and critical needs of the family, as identified through the application process.  

To apply for the program, applications must be received by the end of day on Thursday, October 29. Applications can be submitted online at www.health.utah.gov/ltc/mccw. Parents may also print the application and submit it by fax (801-323-1593) or by mail (UDOH, Medically Complex Children’s waiver, Division of Medicaid and Health Financing, PO Box 143112, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-3112).

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Media Contact:
Kolbi Young, Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6847
(m) 801-231-6350

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Utahns Urged to Rid Homes of Leftover Medications

(Salt Lake, UT) – Utah ranks 5th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths and a campaign is underway to safely dispose of the kinds of drugs that are killing people. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is urging Utahns to take advantage of the National Take Back Initiative on Saturday, September 26th to clean out medicine cabinets and safely dispose of leftover prescription medications. 

Preliminary data showed that in 2014, 344 individuals died from a prescription drug overdose in Utah; an average of 29 people each month.  Most of the prescription drug overdoses (84.0%) involved prescription pain medications. The most common prescription pain medications involved in these deaths are oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Over the past decade, prescription pain medications have been responsible for more drug deaths in our state than all other drug categories, including heroin and cocaine, combined.

“This is a very real epidemic, and it warrants a strong public health response," said Anna Fondario, UDOH Injury Epidemiologist. “These deaths can be prevented. Educational programs for those at greatest risk, improved clinical care, ongoing data collection efforts to inform prevention and intervention programs, and strong policies have been shown to be effective in curbing this crisis."

The 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey found that 68.3% of Utahns who used prescription pain medications in the past year reported that they kept leftover prescription pain medications in their homes. Additionally, 74.3% of Utahns who used prescription pain medications that were not prescribed to them reported getting them from a family member or friend. When improperly stored or disposed of, leftover medications can be dangerous.

The National Take Back Initiative is a nationwide event sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration to encourage people to properly dispose of leftover medications. Take-back events will be held across the state from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 26th. To find a take-back event, visit https://goo.gl/aD7Hb7. 

Permanent collection bins area also available in locations across the state for safe and legal disposal. To find a permanent disposal site, visit Use Only As Directed at http://useonlyasdirected.org/drop-off-locator/.

Prescription overdose deaths can be prevented. Tips include:
  • Never take prescription pain medications that are not prescribed to you.
  • Never take prescription pain medications more often or in higher doses than prescribed.
  • Never drink alcoholic beverages while taking prescription pain medications.
  • Never share prescription pain medications with anyone. Besides being dangerous, it’s also a felony.
  • Taking prescription pain medications with other depressants, such as anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids, or cold medicine, can be dangerous.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about ALL medicines and supplements you take.
To learn how to prevent prescription drug misuse, abuse, and overdose, visit http://health.utah.gov/vipp or http://useonlyasdirected.org/.    

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Media Contact:
Anna Fondario
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-6201 (m) 801-499-1074

Friday, September 11, 2015

Safe Kids Coalitions Offer Free Car Seat Checks: September 13-19 is National Child Passenger Safety Week

(Salt Lake City, UT) –Safe Kids Utah in partnership with the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Department of Transportation urge parents and caregivers to make sure their car seats and booster seats are registered and properly installed.  Road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries to children in the United States. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.

“Registering car seats and boosters is a simple, easy way for parents to stay updated on their children’s safety seats,” said Cambree Applegate, Safe Kids Utah Coordinator. “By registering, if there are any recalls on the product, the company will be able to notify the buyer. In doing so, many children’s lives may be saved.” 

Car seat checkpoints offer drivers the chance to receive assistance and guidance from certified child passenger safety (CPS) technicians regarding proper installation of their car seats and booster seats. “Car seats are complicated. We know parents and caregivers want what is best for their kids,” said Applegate. “Taking a few minutes out of your day to get your car seats checked is a simple way to ensure your children are travelling safely in the car.”

Free car seat checks will be held across Utah during September.  Each event will have certified CPS technicians on site to help parents ensure their car seats are installed correctly.  Technicians will also talk with parents and caregivers about which car seats and booster seats will work best as their child grows.  Events will be held:
  • Friday, Sept. 11 – Car seat checkpoint from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Murray Fresh Market (5632 South 900 East, Murray, UT 84121).
  • Tuesday, Sept. 15 – Car seat class from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Weber-Morgan Health Department (477 23rd Street, Ogden). Call 801-399-7186 or email jfawcett@co.weber.ut.us to make an appointment.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 16 – Car seat checkpoint from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Anna Smith Elementary (731 Aria Blvd., Wendover).
  • Thursday, Sept. 17 – Car seat checkpoint from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Andy’s Market (515 North Main, Monroe).
  • Thursday, Sept. 17 – Car seat checkpoint from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hansen Motors (1175 South Commerce Way, Brigham City).
  • Thursday, Sept. 17 – Car seat checkpoint from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Summit County Health Department (650 Round Valley Drive, Park City).  Call 435-333-1500 to make an appointment.
  • Thursday, Sep. 17 – Car seat checkpoint from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Riverton Hospital, Primary Children’s Outpatient Clinic (3741 West 12600 South, Riverton)
  • Saturday, Sept. 19 – Car seat checkpoint from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Davis Hospital (1600 West Antelope Drive, Layton).
  • Saturday, Sept. 19 – Car seat checkpoint from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Mountain View Hospital (1000 East 100 North, Payson).
  • Monday, Sept. 21 – Preparedness Fair with car seat information from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Wasatch High School (930 South 500 East, Heber).
  • Thursday, Sept. 24 – Car seat checkpoint from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Northwest Recreation Center (1300 West 300 North, Salt Lake City).
  • Friday, Sept. 25 – Car seat checkpoint from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Moab City Market (425 South Main Street, Moab).
  • Saturday, Sept. 26 – Car seat checkpoint from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the K-Mart in Richfield (1080 South Highway 118, Richfield).
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29 – Car seat checkpoint from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Weber-Morgan Health Department (477 23rd Street, Ogden). Call 801-399-7186 or email jfawcett@co.weber.ut.us to make an appointment.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30 – Car seat checkpoint from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Droubay Chevrolet Buick (348 West Main Street, Delta).
For more information on which car seat is right for your child, visit safekidsutah.org.

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Media Contact:
Cambree Applegate
Safe Kids Utah Coordinator
(o) 801-538-6852 (m) 435-862-8773

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Utah Salons Love Babies: Stylists join in statewide effort to reduce drinking in pregnancy

(Salt Lake City, UT) – When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, so does her baby. The same amount of alcohol that i¬¬s in her blood gets to the baby's blood through the umbilical cord. “But there’s a critical difference in how that alcohol affects the fetus,” said Lynn Tanner, Chair, Utah Fetal Alcohol Coalition. “Mom’s liver works hard to break down the alcohol, but baby’s liver can’t, and the birth defects caused by drinking last a lifetime.”

That’s why the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Utah Fetal Alcohol Coalition (UFAC) and Utah salons are observing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day with the We Love Babies campaign. Participating salons will receive materials that explain to hair stylists and nail technicians the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy -- so they can bring up the subject with their clients. “Women and men know they can talk about almost anything with their stylist,” said Becky Sorensen, a stylist and manager with Great Looks Beauty in Sandy. “When the Coalition asked us to participate, we didn’t hesitate and are ready to start the conversation.”

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances a woman can use in pregnancy. The more mom drinks, the more serious the effects on the fetus. Heavy alcohol use can cause:
  • Sleep and nursing problems
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, eyes, ears, and more
The most disabling of all alcohol-related problems are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASDs. Each year, as many as 40,000 babies are born with an FASD in the U.S., costing up to $6 billion annually in institutional and medical costs. Children with FASDs may need care from a range of health care professionals, such as psychologists, speech pathologists, social workers, nutritionists, and surgeons.

“Unfortunately,  many woman say they were told by their doctor that a few glasses of wine or beer a week is okay in pregnancy,” said Julia Robertson, Program Manager for the UDOH MotherToBaby Pregnancy Risk Line. “But there is no known safe amount of alcohol when you’re pregnant.”  When women call MotherTo Baby worried about the baby and upset because they recently drank alcohol,  Robertson  says, “We tell those moms that the important thing is to stop drinking now to increase their odds of having a healthy baby.”

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day begins worldwide annually at 9:09 a.m. on Sept. 9 — the 9th hour and  9th minute of the 9th day of the 9th month — to remind moms not to drink during the nine months of pregnancy,

We Love Babies Week in Utah is September 8-12.  In addition to talking about alcohol in pregnancy, participating stylists will give clients information packets and goodie bags.

The UDOH is a member of UFAC. For more information on FASD and the Coalition, visit http://www.utahfetalalcohol.org/.


Media Contact:
Cyndi Bemis
Education and Outreach Coordinator
MotherToBaby Utah
(o) 801-538-6924 (m) 801-550-4228

Monday, August 31, 2015

Utah Youth E-Cigarette Usage Nearly Doubles in 2015

(Salt Lake City, UT) – New data released today by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) showed a substantial increase in the use of electronic cigarettes by youth in grades 8, 10, and 12.  The data was included in the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) annual Legislative Report and revealed that in 2015, 10.5 percent of Utah youth reported they currently use electronic cigarettes; nearly double the 5.8 percent reported in 2013.  In the same timeframe, adult e-cigarette use remained unchanged at 4.8 percent.

Traditional tobacco use among youth remained low at 3.4% but e-cigarette use grew at an alarming rate.  The report indicated 30 percent of youth in grade 12 have tried e-cigarettes.  Additionally, nearly half of all Utah youth who use e-cigarettes have never tried conventional cigarettes.

“While the use of electronic cigarettes leveled off among adults in 2014, the youth experimentation and use rates are more than double the rates reported by Utah adults,” said Dr. Joseph Miner, Executive Director of the UDOH. “The prevalence of fruit or candy-like flavored e-juices and the use of celebrities in advertising make these products especially enticing to youth.”

Findings in this report also detailed where youth are accessing e-cigarettes and e-juice. Most youth are borrowing the devices from friends, but others are illegally obtaining them from convenience stores, supermarkets, discount stores, gas stations, and tobacco or vape shops.

The UDOH works in partnership with Utah’s 13 local health departments to address tobacco prevention. “Despite this alarming trend, all of our local health departments have been working hard to educate their communities about e-cigarettes and the dangers of nicotine use by youth,” said Brian Bennion, Executive Director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department.  “We are now seeing the impact of their work in relation to policy changes that make it harder for teens to access tobacco products but there is still more to be done.”

The UDOH encourages Utahns currently using tobacco and other nicotine devices to consider the long-term damage to their health, including emphysema, lung, mouth and other cancers, and tooth loss.  Information on how to quit and free cessation services can be found at www.waytoquit.org.

To download a copy of the 2015 TPCP Legislative Report or to view e-cigarette data specific to your area, visit http://health.utah.gov/legislativereports/.


Media Contact:
Brittany Karzen
Media Liaison
Cell: (714) 267-3679

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Utah Resident Dies from Plague

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah public health officials have confirmed that an elderly resident died from plague earlier this month. This is the first Utah resident to be diagnosed with plague since 2009.

Plague is a rare, life-threatening, flea-borne illness that is maintained in a rodent-flea transmission cycle.  Species such as prairie dogs, black footed-ferrets, squirrels, and rabbits are especially susceptible and experience high mortality upon infection.  Plague is naturally occurring in Utah, and typically seen in the prairie dog populations each year.  Since April 1, 2015, a total of 12 cases of human plague have been reported in residents of seven states: Arizona (two), California (one), Colorado (four), Georgia (one), New Mexico (two), Oregon (one), and Utah (one). The two cases in Georgia and the California resident have been linked to exposures at or near Yosemite National Park.  The investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding the Utahn’s illness.  The patient may have contracted the disease from a flea, or contact a dead animal.  At this time, public health officials believe there was no travel history indicating that the Utah resident traveled anywhere else where plague is common.

Human plague occurs in areas where the bacteria are present in wild rodent populations.  The risks are generally highest in rural and semi-rural areas, including campsites and homes that provide food and shelter for various ground squirrels, chipmunks and wood rats, or other areas where you may encounter rodents.

Plague is a very serious illness, but it is treatable with commonly available antibiotics. The earlier a patient seeks marmedical care and receives treatment that is appropriate for plague, the better the chance for a full recovery.  Some common symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, and weakness. If you are experiencing symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
To protect you, your family, and your pets:
          Reduce rodent habitat around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food. Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof.
          Always wear gloves if you are handling or skinning wild animals to prevent contact between your skin and potential plague bacteria. Contact your local health department if you have questions about disposal of dead animals.
          Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
          Keep fleas off of your pets by regularly applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague-infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. Keep pets away from wild animals.  If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
          Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free outside to sleep on your bed.
          Cook all wild game meat properly to a minimum of 165F inner temperature.
          Clean and disinfect all knives and equipment used to process wild game.
          Do not feed raw game meat or inner organs to pets.

Notify your local Utah Division of Wildlife Resources if you see an unusual number of dead prairie dogs, squirrels, or rabbits in any given area.  Contact information for local area offices can be found at: http://wildlife.utah.gov/about-us/contact-us.html.

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Media Contact:
Charla Haley
(c) 801-230-5927

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

West Nile Virus Activity Detected in Utah

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Public health officials across Utah are reminding all residents who will be outside over the holiday to protect themselves from mosquito bites.  So far, no human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) have been reported in Utah, but four positive mosquito pools have been identified in four counties.

West Nile virus activity has been detected in a mosquito pool in Weber County. Even though no human cases of West Nile virus have been reported, public health official urge Utahns to avoid complacency. UDOH epidemiologist JoDee Baker warns, “There is no vaccine for humans. So, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the key to reducing your risk for infection.”  

While West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn.

 “The best way to reduce your risk is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you’re outside,” says Baker.  Adults and children older than 2 months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30% DEET,” Baker added. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age.

Other precautionary measures include:
·      Wear long sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors.
·      Remove any puddles or standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed, including birdbaths, swimming/wading pools, old tires, buckets and plant containers.
·      Report bodies of stagnant water to the local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit http://www.umaa.org/ for a list of MADs.
·      Contact a veterinarian for information on vaccinating horses.

While most people infected by this virus won't notice any symptoms, some people may experience flu-like symptoms or worse. The elderly and people with poor immune systems are at higher risk for symptomatic disease. The most serious cases can lead to hospitalization, disability, or death. 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 into the fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv. Throughout the West Nile virus season, the UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.

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Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
(o): 801-538-6682
(c): 801-647-5421