Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Weapon in War Against Rx Drug Overdoses

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Every month, 21 Utah adults die as a result of prescription pain medications.  At third highest in the state, Downtown Ogden sees 29.6 deaths per 100,000 population. To combat the rising number of prescription pain medication overdoses in the Weber-Morgan area, officials from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Weber Human Services (WHS), and the Weber-Morgan Health Department (WMHD) have released a new toolkit to help community leaders and citizens prevent these tragedies.

“Over the past decade, prescription opioids have been responsible for more drug deaths in Utah than all other drug categories, including heroin and cocaine combined,” said Anna Fondario, UDOH epidemiologist. “This is a very real epidemic, and it warrants a strong public health response. If we work together, we have the power to save lives."

The toolkit was specifically designed to meet the needs of the Downtown Ogden area. In addition to local and national data, the kit includes information on: effective state policies; signs and symptoms of abuse; prevention tips for community leaders, parents, schools, health care providers, and law enforcement; recommendations for the safe use, storage, and disposal of medications; how to work with the media; and a list of Ogden-area resources such as locations of permanent drop-off sites and substance abuse treatment centers.

Another critical feature is a wallet-size card that explains what to do in case of an overdose and how to administer naloxone, a lifesaving rescue medication that can immediately reverse opioid overdoses.
“We look forward to using and sharing this toolkit,” said Brian Bennion, Executive Director, WMHD. “It will be a great resource as we look for ways to tackle the epidemic of opioid-related abuse and deaths in our community.”

Additional UDOH data show:

•   Utah ranks 5th in the nation for drug poisoning deaths; 49 Utahns die as a result of drug poisoning each month (1 death every 15 hours), and 75% of the deaths involve opioids such as oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone.
•   24.5% of Utahns reported using some type of prescribed opioid during the previous year. (Source: 2008 UDOH Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System)
•    2.6% of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 reported that they had used prescription drugs in the past 30 days that were not prescribed to them by a doctor. (Source: 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey)
•    From 2009-2012, the top five circumstances observed in prescription pain medication deaths in Utah were substance abuse problem (73.1%), physical health problem (67.7%), current mental health problem (65.5%), alcohol dependence/problem (19.4%), and history of suicide attempts (12.7%).

“We continue to see a rise in both the number of individuals entering treatment for prescription drug abuse and the severity of the problems presented by these individuals. It impacts nearly every aspect of their lives. We believe this toolkit can help slow or even reverse these troubling trends,” said Darin Carver, spokesperson for WHS.

The National Take Back Initiative is a nationwide event sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to encourage people to properly dispose of leftover medications. The UDOH, WHS, and WMHD encourage anyone with leftover prescription drugs to take them to one of the Take Back events throughout the state on Saturday, September 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A list of disposal locations can be found at

For information on the safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription pain medications visit

To download the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Toolkit visit

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Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Violence and Injury Prevention Program 
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

UDOH Honored as a Bicycle-Friendly Business

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Today, the League of American Bicyclists recognized the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) with a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business℠ (BFB) award, joining more than 800 visionary businesses from across the country.

The UDOH was honored for promoting biking as a way to improve employee health and productivity by increasing physical activity levels and enhancing mental well-being. As the state’s leading health entity, the focus on biking sets the example for other businesses.

As a result of this designation, the UDOH is able to receive technical assistance on how to improve its standing. “It is our hope to share what we learn through this experience with other agencies and organizations throughout the state,” said Tania Charette, Health Program Specialist, UDOH.

To earn the designation, UDOH completed a detailed assessment outlining everything the Department has implemented throughout the years to encourage employees to bike to work. Most important have been a policy encouraging use of transit during red air days, including bicycling, and construction of secure areas to store bicycles.

"I love that UDOH not only supports my desire to ride to work, but actually makes it easy. It helps me to stay healthy and I feel more productive when I do it," said UDOH employee Brad Belnap.

The League of American Bicyclists is leading the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.

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Media Contact:
Tania J. Charette, MPH, CHES
Health Program Specialist
(801) 721-4723

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Health Officials to Brief Media on State’s First Confirmed Cases of Enterovirus D68

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Test results returned today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed the presence of Enterovirus D68 in Utah. The positive results showed up in 12 of 22 samples sent to the CDC from Primary Children’s Hospital.

Officials from the Utah Department of Health and Primary Children’s Hospital will be available to answer questions from the media at 2:00 p.m. at the education center at the Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Building, located directly across the street from Primary Children’s Hospital.

“In addition to the 12 positive samples, Primary Children’s had 37 rhino/enterovirus positive admissions in the past week, and 10 of those were admitted to the Pediatriac ICU,” says Dr. Andrew Pavia, the hospital’s division chief of pediatric infectious diseases. “The rate of increase may be slowing but we don’t think we have passed the peak of the outbreak.”

Health care professionals in the U.S. are not required to report known or suspected cases of EV-D68 infection to health department because it is not a reportable disease in the United States. And, the CDC does not have a surveillance system that specifically collects information on EV-D68 infections. Utah health officials continue to work with the CDC, hospitals, and the health care community to closely monitor the situation.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Since there is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infections, Dr. Allyn Nakashima, State Epidemiologist, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) says, “It’s important to remember that the best way to prevent spread of this severe respiratory illness is by practicing proper hygiene.” There is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infections other than management of symptoms, and no specific anti-viral medications currently available for this purpose.

Take steps to protect yourself and others from respiratory infections such as:

Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
Use the same precautions you would use to prevent the spread of influenza.

These prevention steps are especially important for individuals or persons with family members who are infants, or who have chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. Symptoms of enterovirus illness can include fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body aches.

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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.   

Primary Children’s is a 289-bed full-service pediatric hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the only children’s hospital in the Intermountain West equipped and staffed to treat the most seriously ill and injured children and infants, and is verified as a pediatric Trauma I Center. It is owned by Intermountain Healthcare, a not-for-profit hospital system, and is affiliated with the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Media Contacts:
Rebecca Ward, UDOH

Bonnie Midget, Primary Children’s Hospital
(o) 801-662-6590 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Falls a Major Risk for Injury, Death Among Seniors

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Every day, an average of eight Utahns ages 65 and older are hospitalized for injuries due to a fall. In 2012, there were 3,183 fall-related hospitalizations among older Utahns, costing more than $95 million in treatment charges.  The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) reminds everyone that injuries from falls are largely preventable. 

“Falls are not a normal part of aging,” said Trisha Keller, Program Manager, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “Most falls are preventable if we can help older adults learn what hazards to remove from their homes and help them increase their strength and balance.”

Agencies across the Wasatch Front will host free events to help seniors remain active and reduce their risk of falling. Activities include one-mile walks, bingo games, health screenings, fitness demonstrations, and medication reviews. Events will be held at the following Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services Senior Centers:

Monday, Sept. 22 – Walk and health fair from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Taylorsville Senior Center (4743 S. Plymouth View Drive, Taylorsville)
Monday, Sept. 22 – Walk and super bingo from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  at the Columbus Senior Center (2531 South 400 East, Salt Lake City)
Tuesday, Sept. 23 – Walk and health fair from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Millcreek Senior Center (2266 E. Evergreen Avenue, Salt Lake City)
Tuesday, Sept. 23 – Walk and lunch from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. at the  Liberty Senior Center (251 East 700 South, Salt Lake City)
Tuesday, Sept. 23 – Walk and scavenger hunt from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Draper Senior Center (1148 East Pioneer Road, Draper)
Friday, Sept. 26 – Walk and health screenings from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Sandy Senior Center (9310 South 1300 East, Sandy)

Davis County facilities include:

Tuesday, Sept. 23 – Walk from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Autumn Glow Senior Activity Center (81 East Center Street, Kaysville)
Tuesday, Sept. 23 – Walk from 11 a.m. to 12 noon at the North Davis Senior Activity Center (42 South State Street, Clearfield)
Tuesday, Sept. 23 – Walk from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Golden Years Senior Activity Center (726 South 100 East, Bountiful)

“Our goal is to help our citizens remain independent and healthy,” said Jessica Hardcastle, a health educator at the Davis County Health Department. “Even minor falls can have a dramatic impact on a person’s well-being and sense of safety.”

“Every year an average of 145 Utah seniors die from complications of a fall,” said Nichole Shepard, Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services.  “One fall can be the beginning of a downward health spiral that can include limited mobility, dementia from a head injury, and complications from major surgeries like blood clots and seizures.”

The UDOH recommends four basic steps to reduce the risk of falls:
Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination.
Have your health care provider review your medicines. Some medicines or combinations of medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.
Have your vision checked. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
Make your home safer. Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways and stairs. Install grab bars next to your toilet and shower. 

Utah will join 48 other states in recognizing September 23, 2014 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day. For more information about how to prevent older adult falls, visit

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Media Contact:
Cyndi Bemis
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6348
(m) 801-865-0648

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Data Reveal Health Problems, Risks by Neighborhood

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Data from a new Utah Department of Health (UDOH) report are being used to identify links between risk and health problems that impact “small areas” across the state. 

“Small areas” refers to a set of 63 geographic locales in Utah grouped by ZIP code and according to similar population sizes and political boundaries. These areas are especially useful for assessing health needs at the community level and targeting programs to those at greatest risk for injury and poor health outcomes. 

“This is the first time our department has put together a report with such a broad set of health indicators by Utah Small Areas,” said Michael Friedrichs, UDOH epidemiologist. “The indicators were chosen because they relate to long-term health outcomes in our state’s chronic disease and health promotion plan, and are critical to improving Utahns’ overall health.” 

The report identified six communities with both significantly higher rates of asthma emergency department visits and adults exposed to secondhand smoke. The areas include Kearns, Downtown Salt Lake City, Glendale, South Salt Lake, West Valley East, and Ben Lomond. Conversely, the same pattern was true for 10 small areas with significantly lower asthma ED visits and a lower percentage of adults exposed to secondhand smoke (Cache County Other/Rich County, Bountiful, Farmington/Centerville, Riverton/Draper, South Jordan, Cedar City, Summit County, American Fork/Alpine, Springville/Spanish Fork, and Utah County South). 

We know from national studies that environmental triggers like secondhand smoke play an important role in asthma severity and management,” said Lori Mau, UDOH Asthma Program. “The data underscore why it’s important to identify and control multiple asthma triggers at the same time, rather than focusing on just one management strategy,” Mau added. 

Tobacco use in Utah was also studied. “Even though Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the nation, we still have more than 200,000 tobacco users,” said Adam Bramwell, UDOH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. “The report is incredibly important to our smoking cessation efforts, as it shows right where tobacco users live. Now we’ll use the information to connect those residents to Utah’s many tobacco cessation resources available at our new website,” Bramwell said.

The report summarizes data on 17 different topics presented in tables, graphs, and maps to help the reader see where health problems are concentrated and how they may impact each other. Topics in the report include:

Prescription Opioid Deaths
Cancer Deaths
Cardiovascular Disease Deaths
Current Adult Cigarette Smokers
Adult Secondhand Smoke Exposure
Obese Adults
Physically Active Adults
Fall Hospitalizations, Ages 65+
Infants Receiving First Trimester Prenatal Care
Female Breast Cancer Screenings, Ages 40+
Colon Cancer Screenings, Ages 50+
Pre-diabetic Adults
Adults Controlling High Blood Pressure
Diabetic Adults Receiving Diabetes Education
Asthma Emergency Department Visits
Adults with Arthritis Limited by Arthritis 
For a full copy of the Bureau of Health Promotion Small Area Report, visit

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Media Contacts:

Michael Friedrichs (o) 801-538-6244 
Adam Bramwell (m) 801-380-0780