Wednesday, August 29, 2012

UDOH Releases Estimates on Uninsured Utahns for 2011

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

UDOH Launches New Website to Combat Obesity

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

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vet Warns Secondhand Smoke Dangerous to Pets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Health Officials Confirm First Human Case of West Nile Virus

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

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

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

UDOH to Host Outreach Meeting for Breach Victims

Utah Department of Health (UDOH) officials

UDOH staff will provide personal, individualized assistance to Utahns who want additional     
information about the recent data breach of a state government computer server

Thursday, July 26, 2012
4-7 p.m.
(This is an open house format – individuals can come at any time between these hours for 
personal help.)

Salt Lake County Government Center
South Building, Atrium
2001 S. State St.
Salt Lake City, Utah

This is the first stop of UDOH’s Data Breach Solution Center tour, a series of workshops throughout the state designed to provide personal, one-on-one help and information regarding the recent data breach. In all, the tour will make 12 stops at communities across Utah and will end on August 22 in St. George.

Utah’s Data Security Ombudsman, Sheila Walsh-McDonald, and her staff will be at each workshop to provide individual case management, giving the public the opportunity to learn more about the data breach and protect themselves.

For a full schedule of events across the state, as well as additional information on the UDOH’s Data Breach Solution Center tour visit or call the 24-hour hotline at 1-855-238-3339.

# # #

Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
UDOH Public Information Officer
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cigarette-related Fire Danger High this Season

(Salt Lake City) – Fires are raging across Utah and officials say cigarettes may be the cause of at least one wildfire and multiple house fires. This has prompted the Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) to issue a cigarette safety warning to the public.
Twenty-eight wildfires have blazed their way across the state this year, costing nearly $50 million in firefighting resources. Some were caused by target shooting and lightning, and fireworks have been banned in many areas due to their potential fire hazard. Fire officials say the Grease Fire in Millard County may have been caused by a cigarette. On July 23, fire officials reported a West Jordan house fire that caused more than $60,000 in damage and resulted in the death of a family pet.
“Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, lighters, and matches pose a serious fire danger in our homes and the outdoors,” said Amy Oliver, Media Liaison for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. “Snuffing out your cigarette completely can help to reduce fires, but the best way to prevent fires is to not smoke at all.”
Quit smoking resources like the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW and can help smokers quit tobacco and reduce their own fire hazard potential. “The decision to quit smoking has always had many personal benefits, like better health, more money to use on other needs, and the fact that food tastes better and your sense of smell improves,” said Oliver. “The added benefit of preventing fires and protecting our homes and the outdoors is icing on the cake for quitters.”
From January 2008 to June 2012, the Office of the State Fire Marshal reported 1,360 fires related to smoking. Recent data show 249 fires, or 18 percent, were caused by cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. An additional 314 fires, or 23 percent, were attributed to misuse of cigarette lighters. Across the state, 21,435 fires were reported during this time period.
For free help quitting smoking, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW, or visit
Media contact:
Amy Oliver
Media Liaison
(801) 538-6917 (desk) 
(801) 783-9067 (cell)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

UDOH to Host Outreach Meetings on Data Breach

(Salt Lake City, UT) - The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is preparing to launch its Data Breach Solution Center tour, a series of workshops throughout the state designed to provide personal, one-on-one help and information regarding the recent data breach.
The workshops will launch next Thursday, July 26, at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City. In all, the tour will make 12 stops at communities across Utah and will end on August 22 in St. George.

Utah's Data Security Ombudsman, Sheila Walsh-McDonald, and her staff will be at all 12 workshops providing individual case management, giving the public the opportunity to learn more about the data breach and protect themselves.

"We understand how upsetting the news of the data breach was for Utahns, and we apologize for the stress it has caused," said Walsh-McDonald, who was appointed by Governor Gary R. Herbert in response to the data breach. "We want to make sure we've done everything we can to reach out to those who were affected by the data breach and offer them a high level of assistance and personally counsel anyone in need."

The UDOH encourages anyone who has questions or feedback to attend one of the workshops. The tour is part of the Department's push to provide solutions to those whose personal information was compromised earlier this year when computer hackers broke into a Utah State government server.

Each workshop will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (with the exception of St. George) on the following dates:

Thursday, July 26       Salt Lake City
                                Salt Lake County Government Center, South Atrium
                                 2001 S. State St.
                                Salt Lake City, Utah

Monday, July 30         Salt Lake City
                                Palmer Court
                                999 S. Main St.
                                Salt Lake City, Utah

Tuesday, July 31        Logan
                                Bear River Health Department
                                 Environmental Health Building
                                85 E. 1800 North
                                Logan, Utah

Wednesday, Aug. 1     Ogden
                                Marshall White Community Center
                                222 28th Street
                                Ogden, Utah

Thursday, Aug. 2       Clearfield
                               North Davis Senior Activity Center
                               42 S. State St.
                               Clearfield, Utah

Wednesday, Aug. 8    Provo
                               Utah County Health Department
                               151 S. University Ave., Room 2600
                               Provo, Utah

Tuesday, Aug. 14      Price
                              Castleview Hospital
                              300 N. Hospital Drive
                              Price, Utah

Tuesday, Aug. 21      Richfield
                              Central Utah Health Department
                              70 Westview Dr.
                              Richfield, Utah

Wednesday, Aug. 22    St. George
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.          Washington County Senior Center
                                 245 N. 200 West
                                 St. George, Utah

A second Salt Lake County workshop, as well as events in Vernal and Moab, will be announced soon.

In addition to the workshops, the State of Utah has taken several significant steps to make sure victims of the data breach are protected, including offering free credit monitoring for victims and creating a 24-hour information hotline and web site with additional information on how to protect your credit, as well as direct access to the Data Security Ombudsman.

The UDOH and the Department of Technology Services have also completed internal reviews of data security policies, analyzed all state servers and conducted vulnerability assessments on them, and have increased employee training. Additionally, two independent firms have been hired to conduct investigations into the data breach and into the state's response.

For more information on the UDOH's Data Breach Solution Center tour visit or call the 24-hour hotline at 1-855-238-3339.

#  # # #

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Health Brochures Now Available in Audio Format for the Blind

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Office of Health Disparities (OHD) has collaborated with the Utah State Library Program for the Blind and Disabled (USL) to create an online collection of audio health materials.  The collection includes mp3 recordings of 39 health brochures covering a variety of chronic diseases, guidelines for healthy aging, and concerns specific to the sight-impaired population, such as diabetic retinopathy and safe exercise for people with vision problems.

The audio resources for the blind have been added to the OHD Multilingual Library, an online collection of health resources in 50 languages, which is available at
The Multilingual Library has been a popular source for health materials in a variety of languages since 2006. OHD recently expanded the Library to accommodate English- language materials for special populations such as the blind.

“The Multilingual Library is an excellent online resource to educate non-English speakers,” said Dr. David Patton, UDOH Executive Director. “We are really pleased to expand the library to reach additional populations with specific needs.”

A multidisciplinary team first envisioned the project at a meeting of OHD, USL and local health department staff members.  The USL lacked resources about health.  OHD had an expansive collection of health materials in the Multilingual Library, but no audio for the blind.  Together, they researched the health needs of blind library patrons using library intake forms (documents filled out by library users when looking for materials).  OHD staff selected quality health brochures appropriate to meet these needs.  USL volunteers read the brochures aloud to create audio recordings. 

"These health-related articles are a valuable addition to the Utah State Library, Health Department, and Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired web sites," said State Librarian Donna Jones Morris.  "This partnership allows the link to these resources to be viewed on all three web sites."

The Resources for the Blind section of the Multilingual Library can be accessed at:

Media Contact:
April Young Bennett
(801) 703-0127

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

High Blood Pressure Hits More than Your Health

(SALT LAKE CITY) – Today, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) published the July 2012 Utah Health Status Report, which ranked high blood pressure, or hypertension, as the second most costly chronic disease in the state.  The annual costs to treat high blood pressure in Utah total an average of more than $111 million. 

“Nearly 1 in 4 Utah adults have high blood pressure,” said Athena Carolan, Health Specialist with the UDOH Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program (HDSPP).  “It’s considered the silent killer because it creates no obvious health symptoms, but often leads to heart attacks and strokes.”

Safe and effective treatments are readily available for those diagnosed with high blood pressure; however, more than one-third (36.3%) of all Utah health plan enrollees do not have the condition “under control,” meaning a systolic blood pressure below 140 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure below 90. 
Utah HDSPP works with partners to increase awareness of high blood pressure treatment guidelines and improve patient follow-up.

“By partnering with health systems, worksites, and community groups, we work as a team to raise awareness and lower costs,” Carolan said. “It’s also critical that individuals talk to their doctors about how to improve their blood pressure through lifestyle changes, like losing weight, eating less salt, exercising more, and giving up smoking.” 

For more information about blood pressure or HDSPP, visit

Media Contact
Athena Carolan
Health Program Specialist