Monday, April 14, 2014

Utah County Discovery a Reminder: There is Help and Hope for Endangered Newborns

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Staff of the Utah Department of Health Newborn Safe Haven program are reminding women that their babies are wanted, even if their mothers can’t care for them.

Safe Haven was launched in 2001 to allow mothers to anonymously drop off their babies at any Utah hospital, no questions asked, and without fear of criminal punishment.

“It’s a sad day for all of us who have worked to educate our community about Safe Haven” said program coordinator Julia Robertson. “But there is hope for the mothers and their babies, so we encourage anyone struggling with a decision to seek help.”

The Safe Haven hotline number is 866-458-0058 and is available night and day.  More information is available at, including details on the law, answers to frequently asked questions, and contact information for hospitals that are open 24/7.

"Child abuse, neglect, and homicide can be prevented,” said Heidi Valdez, Child Abuse Prevention Program Administrator, Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). “Crisis and respite nurseries, parenting classes, family counseling, and in-home services, are available statewide for all Utahns."

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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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Colon Cancer: Preventable, Treatable, Beatable

(Salt Lake City) – In 2012, 70 percent of Utah adults who answered a survey said they had been screened for colon cancer, an important milestone for the highly-treatable disease.

“But that leaves 30 percent of adult Utahns who haven’t been screened and may have the beginnings of cancer right now,” said Brenda Nelson, Media Coordinator for the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Cancer Control Program (UCCP). “Our ongoing goal is to get every Utah adult screened early, so polyps can be found and removed before they become cancerous.”

Colon cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men and women in both the United States and Utah. In recognition of March as Colon Cancer Awareness Month, the UDOH and Utah Cancer Action Network (UCAN) are encouraging all Utahns age 50 or over to get a colonoscopy.

“If caught early, 92 percent of colorectal cancers are treatable,” said Kelly Robinson, UCCP health educator. Robinson recommends all Utahns get health insurance coverage, and to stay physically active, which is shown to help prevent many diseases, including colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 780 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in Utah this year. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicinefound that colon cancer screening is key to survival, because finding and removing precancerous polyps seems to cut the death rate of colorectal cancer in half.

The goal of UCAN is to educate Utahns about how to prevent cancer, encourage them to get screened, and ultimately prevent cancer deaths,” said Lynette Hansen, UCAN chair  “Colon cancer screening should not just be important to men and women over 50, it should be important to anyone who loves or cares about someone over 50,” added Hansen.  “Tell them you love them; tell them to get a colonoscopy.”  

In an effort to raise awareness of colon cancer and the importance of getting screened, activities will take place throughout March, including the annual “Buns Up” 5K Walk/Run hosted by the Mountain West Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (MWSGNA).

For more information on colon cancer, or for the Buns Up 5K, visit


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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Data Show Impact of Dating Violence on Utah Teens

(Salt Lake City, UT) – New data from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) show that in 2013, one in four (28%) high school students who dated or went out with someone in the past year report they were emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually abused by that person. This percentage goes down as students get older, especially for female students.

According to YRBS data, in 2013:
     22.7% of students reported being verbally or emotionally harmed one or more times by a dating partner. Females (19.2%) were more likely to report verbal and emotional abuse compared to males (11.7%).
     10.7% of students reported being forced to do sexual things they did not want to by a dating partner. Females (15.0%) were more likely to report sexual abuse compared to males (6.3%).
     6.9% of students reported being physically hurt on purpose one or more times by a dating partner.
     21.9% of students reported being bullied on school property; with the majority (16.8%) being electronically bullied.

To help teachers and students understand the dynamics of unhealthy dating relationships, the UDOH and Utah Healthy Relationship Task Force have developed a dating violence prevention toolkit.

“The Healthy Relationships Toolkit was adapted for Utah classrooms from the evidence-based curriculum ‘Safe Dates’, which has been shown to significantly reduce psychological, sexual, and physical abuse and perpetration in national studies,” said Katie McMinn, UDOH Violence Prevention Specialist.

The toolkit provides interactive role plays, worksheets, and games to help students understand the differences between caring, supportive relationships and controlling, manipulative, or abusive ones. Local resources for individuals who may be in abusive relationships are provided, as well as safety tips, warning signs, and practical tools to help students understand the attitudes and behaviors associated with unhealthy relationships and dating violence.

“As a community we need to teach our young people how to respect one another, talk through problems, and manage their anger in a healthy manner,” said McMinn. “If we do that, we can reduce and even end violence, whether it’s domestic or dating violence, bullying, or child abuse.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Study Shows No Increased Environmental Cancer Risk in South Davis County

(Salt Lake City, UT) – At the request of the Davis County Health Department (DCHD) and under the direction of  Governor Gary R. Herbert, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has completed an analysis of 35 years of cancer data in the the area surrounding the Stericycle facility in Davis County. 

The UDOH Environmental Epidemiology Program (EEP) looked at all reportable cancers in south Davis County (the cities of Bountiful, Centerville, North Salt Lake, West Bountiful and  Woods Cross) for the years 1976 through 2011. The results did show some elevated cancer numbers, none of which are attributable to environmental exposures.

DCHD Director Lewis Garrett says he requested the study several months ago in reponse to resident concerns. “A number of Davis County citizens called the Department worried about a Notice of Violation lodged against Stericycle by the Utah Division of Air Quality,” said Garrett. “I wanted to know if our residents have suffered quantifiable health effects from Stericycle operations.”

Cancer rates in the study area that are higher than the state average for at least two consecutive six-year periods are considered meaningful. 

The study found two cancer types that met that definition: breast (2000-2011) and prostate (1988-1999).   Six cancer types were found to be higher than the state average in the last six-year study period, so it cannot be determined if those rates are evidence of the beginning of a cluster, or simply random variation of the data, until another study period elapses. The study can be found at

Those cancers are:  
o  Colon cancer
o  Prostate cancer
o  Cutaneous melanoma (a type of skin cancer)
o  Bone and joint cancer
o  Breast cancer
o  Anal cancer among women

None of the cancers is typically associated with environmental exposure.

“These cancers are all highly preventable through lifestyle choices and regular health screenings,” said Allyn Nakashima, MD, State Epidemiologist. “No links to air, water, or soil have ever been established for these types of cancer.”

Garrett says the initial study establishes a baseline for future investigations into the health of Davis County residents.  

Also as part of the investigation, UDOH collected soil samples to check for levels of dioxin and heavy metals near the Stericycle plant. EEP is also conducting a statistical investigation of adverse birth outcomes in south Davis County. Results of both studies will be available in a few months.

Friday, January 24, 2014

New Violence and Injury Data Available by Neighborhood

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Have you ever wondered whether your town has more suicides than others? Or whether residents in your community are in more motor vehicle crashes? Just check the Utah Department of Health's (UDOH) new Violence and Injury Small Area report. The report summarizes data on 17 different injury-related topics by "small areas" across the state.

“Small areas” refers to a set of 62 geographic areas in Utah with population sizes ranging from 20,000 to more than 100,000 persons. These areas are especially useful for assessing health needs at the community level and targeting programs to those at greatest risk for injury
This is the second Violence and Injury Small Area report released by the UDOH in the last four years. Data from the first report were used by local health officials to identify communities in greatest need of limited resources. For example, in Utah County, two communities were identified as having the highest hospitalization rates from falls for Utahns aged 65 and older. As a result, the Utah County Health Department secured funding from the UDOH and Mountainland Association of Governments to implement the Stepping On program in these two high-risk communities. Stepping On is an evidence-based program shown to reduce falls by 31%. Today, five counties (Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah, and Wasatch) offer Stepping On to residents via their local Health or Aging Services departments. 

Findings from the report indicate that some injuries vary widely within a local health district. For example, within the four small areas that make up the Bear River Health District, the rate of emergency department visits from suicide attempts varied from a low of 6.5 in Logan (ranked the 8th lowest in the state) to a high of 27.0 in Brigham City (ranked the highest in the state) per 10,000 persons. The state rate is 11.3 per 10,000 persons. As a result, the Bear River Health Department has formed partnerships with community agencies to educate citizens about mental health resources and decrease the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. Officials have also implemented a free, evidence-based suicide prevention program called QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), which is designed to teach the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond.

“Utah has made tremendous strides in preventing injuries and violence in our state over the last 30 years, but this report shows that residents in some areas are still at higher risk than others,” said Trisha Keller, Program Manager for the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

The data are presented in tables, graphs, and maps to help show differences across the state. The report includes maps of each health district and its small areas to help the reader see where violence and injury problems are concentrated.

The topics in the report include:
     Child injuries and fatalities
     Fall-related injuries and fatalities
     Firearm fatalities
     Self-reported seatbelt usage
     Motor vehicle crash injuries and fatalities
     Poisoning fatalities
     Suicide attempts and fatalities
     Traumatic brain injury hospitalizations

For a full copy of the Utah Violence and Injury Small Area report, visit