Tuesday, December 20, 2011

State Receives Coveted Award in Research Leadership

(Salt Lake City, UT) – For its groundbreaking implementation of the Utah All Payer Claims Database (APCD), the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has been named a winner of the prestigious 2011 Ventana Research Leadership Award.  UDOH received the honor along with its vendor, Informatica, for the category of Information Management.  Details about the award can be found at: http://www.ventanaresearch.com/awards/.

Determining the actual cost of health care has become a hot-button issue given rising costs and health care reform. UDOH developed a database to better understand and analyze health care costs across the state by tracking the cost and quality of medical care. The APCD uses data from private insurance agencies and public health organizations.

"Leveraging information assets to gain efficiency while governing the proper costs of services is a core example of what information management is all about," said Mark Smith, Ventana CEO & Chief Research Officer. "Congratulations to the Utah Department of Health for providing a unified view of health care treatments and costs to support a range of cost management and governance-related needs for improving care."

Over time, the APCD will enable the state to identify populations that are underserved or not receiving screenings or preventive care, allowing for the better allocation of services and resources. The APCD will also eventually allow citizen access, so Utahns can understand and compare costs and options for their care.

"Having a complete and accurate picture is especially important because we believe that statewide episode of care analysis across payers will yield a broad spectrum of data vital to public health, policy, and economic decision making,” said Dr. Keely Cofrin Allen, director, UDOH Office of Health Care Statistics,

Cofrin Allen also notes: “The Informatica software’s ability to identify and link records over time and reduce duplication within the system is essential to high quality analysis."

In its release announcing the award, Informatica noted, “With its All Payer Claims Database program to track the cost and quality of medical care, the UDOH has created a seamless data collection/access/analysis environment around health care data in the state of Utah. The Informatica Platform was used to design and power the linking elements of the database, including ensuring the quality of the data and protecting patient privacy.”

The Ventana Leadership Awards recognize technology vendors and their customers that have most effectively achieved success through using people, processes, information and technology and applying best practices within specific business and technology categories.  By receiving this award, the UDOH has been acknowledged for demonstrating business leadership requiring a clear vision, understanding, determination, and a team effort.  

Media Contact:
Keely Cofrin Allen, Ph.D.
Office Director
801-538-6551 (office)
801-538-9916 (cell)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Safe Kids, ABRA Auto Body & Glass Donate Vehicle to Family in Need

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Safe Kids Utah, ABRA Auto Body & Glass, and Primary Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) gave a reconditioned minivan to a South Salt Lake family today as part of the National Auto Body Council’s Recycle Rides program. Recycle Rides identifies families in need across the U.S.  Member shops repair and donate recycled vehicles to families in their communities.

The Rivera family was selected for this year’s donation because they have three young children, ages five, two, and five months. The two youngest children have spina bifida. The family doesn’t currently have a vehicle and relies solely on public transportation or rides from family and friends to get around, including several trips each month to specialists for their children’s health care needs.

“Receiving a car will be such a great help to us. We have to take TRAX or the bus everywhere we go,” said Inelise Rivera. “With two little children with special needs, we have to see the doctor several times each month and this will really help with that,” Rivera added.  “The weather is getting cold and I was worried about being outside so much and causing more problems for the kids. We are very grateful to everyone who has made this possible.”  

Car seat technicians from Safe Kids Utah and PCMC also installed three car seats in the minivan for the family, to ensure the children are safe each and every time their ride in their new vehicle.

“We chose to partner with Safe Kids and Primary Children’s because of their great reputation in helping children and families in Utah,” said Greg Peeters, District Manager, ABRA Auto Body & Glass-Utah. “Knowing we helped someone as deserving as the Rivera family, especially during the holiday season, makes this a very special project for all involved. We are honored to be a part of it.”

Donations for the project were generously provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance, Parts Chain, Advanced Detail, South Bountiful Auto, Sherwin Williams, Lynn’s Auto, Christopher Kia, Costco, Primary Children’s Medical Center, and Safe Kids Utah. 

For information on keeping your family safe in a motor vehicle, visit  http://www.safekidsutah.org/.

Media Contact:
Christi Fisher
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-6852 (m) 801-860-2544
Laurie Janu
ABRA Auto Body & Glass
(o) 763-585-6240

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cold Medicines for New Moms and Moms-to-Be

(Salt Lake City, UT) – It’s cold and flu season in Utah, and new and pregnant moms are at risk like anyone else.  But unlike the rest of us, they can have different treatment needs. Staff of the Pregnancy Risk Line, a joint service of the Utah Department of Health and University of Utah Health Care, are standing by their phones, ready to help.
"Every year around this time, we get a significant number of calls from pregnant and breastfeeding women in Utah who are battling colds and are worried about which medications they can and cannot take," said Al Romeo, PhD,  nurse for the hotline.  "Callers have valid concerns because there are certain ingredients in over-the-counter medications that could be harmful to their babies," explains Romeo.
The following are the Top 5 Tips for moms and moms-to-be coping with winter ailments:
1.  Less is better. Take only those medications needed for your symptoms. Many cold remedies have 3-6 ingredients, some of which you and your baby do not necessarily need. If your major complaint is a cough, avoid combination drugs that include an antihistamine. Cold medications have not been known to cause birth defects, but they can reduce breast milk production.
2.  Oral decongestant alternatives. Women with high blood pressure should avoid oral decongestants in pregnancy. These women should consider saline nose drops or a short-term nasal spray decongestant instead.  All can benefit from a humidifier.
3.  Herbal ingredient warning. Watch out for herbal ingredients in many over-the-counter medications. Chances are they have not been studied for safety in pregnancy.
 4.  Throat Lozenges & Vitamin Overload. While most throat lozenges contain mainly sugar, some may include other ingredients such as zinc or vitamin C. When taking vitamin C, the recommended daily allowance for a pregnant or breastfeeding mom is 80-100 mg per day and zinc is 11 mg per day. The dose indicated on the lozenges package is usually too high for pregnant or breastfeeding moms.  Drinking a daily glass of 100% fruit juice that contains vitamin C will provide the same benefit.
5.  Cough Syrups & Alcohol. Some medications for colds and coughs contain alcohol. Although the amount is small and not harmful, consider alcohol-free formulations if you’re still concerned. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist to help you choose the proper medication to help with your cold and cough symptoms.
For more information about the safety of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, contact the Pregnancy Risk Line at 800-822-2229 (BABY). 
The PRL is a free service for Utah families and health care providers and has been answering questions about the effects of medicines, chemicals and other maternal exposures on a developing fetus or breastfed baby for nearly 30 years. 
Media Contact:
Julia Robertson
Pregnancy Risk Line
(801) 538-9161 (w)  (801) 910-6790 (c)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

First-ever Utah Study Uncovers Pacific Islander Health Disparities

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) recently completed its first statewide health survey conducted in three languages, interviewing 605 adult Utah Pacific Islanders in English, Tongan, and Samoan. This is likely the first study of its kind addressing mainland Pacific Islanders in the United States.
The UDOH Office of Health Disparities Reduction (OHD) initiated the study because Utah death certificates indicate Pacific Islanders had unusually high rates of infant mortality and diabetes-related death. 
“We wanted to know more about their risk factors, but our usual statewide surveys didn’t reach enough Pacific Islanders to give us the information we needed,” explained April Young Bennett, OHD, UDOH. 
The survey found higher rates of diabetes (13.7%, or 1 in 7), obesity (50.9%), and high blood pressure (25.2%) among Utah Pacific Islanders than previously estimated. The Utah Pacific Islander rates for these conditions exceeded the statewide prevalence rates: 6.5% for diabetes, 24.8% for obesity and 23.1% for high blood pressure.
“We may have underestimated in the past because we never interviewed Samoan and Tongan speakers before,” Bennett suggested.  Pacific Islanders interviewed in Tongan or Samoan had higher rates of these conditions than Pacific Islanders interviewed in English.
Health officials are particularly concerned about the obesity rate among Utah Pacific Islanders.  Obesity increases the risk for diabetes and obese women are less likely to have healthy pregnancies.
“Some research does suggest that Pacific Islanders can be healthy at a slightly larger size than Caucasians,” said Bennett.  “We took that into consideration and used a special Body Mass Index scale designed for the unique Pacific Islander body type.  We still found that about half of Utah Pacific Islander adults were obese.”
Utah Pacific Islanders were involved in all stages of survey implementation: building the questionnaire, pilot-testing, translation, survey promotion, and interviewing respondents.
“I commend the investigators on welcoming the involvement and feedback of Pacific Islander community leaders, consultants, and data collectors throughout the development of this study,” said Jacob Fitisemanu, a member of the Healthcare Access for Minorities Advisory Board who participated in the study design. 
“It is important to tailor qualitative and quantitative public health assessments to address the needs of culturally diverse groups,” added Dulce Díez, Manager, OHD, UDOH.
Community members also helped OHD create new health videos designed for Utah Pacific Islanders in English, Tongan, and Samoan. OHD is distributing the videos to community-based organizations, churches, health care organizations, and individuals to promote obesity prevention, healthy pregnancies, and preventive health care.  (Versions are available for African Americans and Hispanics as well.) 
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Media Contact:
April Young Bennett

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

State Unveils New Numbers on Hospital Care in Utah

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The expanded online Utah Hospital Comparison Report, released today by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), brings together information from different sources about hospital care in Utah (http://health.utah.gov/myhealthcare). In addition to measures of in-hospital deaths, average charges, and patient safety, the report shows maps of county rates for avoidable hospitalizations, readmission rates, hospitals’ adherence to guidelines for recommended care, and patient satisfaction. 
The report shows Utah hospitals are doing better overall than the rest of the nation in measures including injuries to newborns, women giving birth, and in-hospital deaths among patients with heart failure, pneumonia, and stroke. However, there are differences among hospitals.
Patients and their family members can use the information to discuss their best health care options with providers. Health care professionals, policy makers, and legislators can use the findings to inform discussions about ways to increase the quality and safety of health care while lowering costs.
The UDOH, with guidance from its advisory panel, the Health Data Committee, has released hospital comparison reports since 2005, as mandated by the Health Care Consumer Bill (SB 132). 
This most recent report was generated by MONAHRQ, a tool developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and is organized so that readers can find the type of information and amount of detail that interests them. Ratings for the Public shows which hospitals performed better than average, average, or below average when compared to all Utah hospitals (referred to as the Utah mean in the report) for a condition, such as heart attack, or a procedure, such as delivery of a baby using medical instruments. Detailed Quality Statistics shows the actual numbers upon which Ratings for the Public are based. 
The Average Charges section lists the number of patients with a specific condition and average charges for treating them. Maps of potentially avoidable hospital stays are also available, showing hospitalization rates by county for conditions that often can be properly managed in outpatient care settings, such as diabetes.    
"MONAHRQ is an economical tool for states to make their health care data reporting accessible to consumers, providers, payers, policy makers, and researchers," said Anne Elixhauser, Ph.D., AHRQ Senior Research Scientist and co-developer of MONAHRQ.
Greg Poulsen, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Intermountain Healthcare, agrees. “Good, consistent information is at the heart of quality and value improvement,” said Poulsen. “Providing accurate, clear, and easy to understand data helps consumers to make wise choices, and providers to make improvements.  We are fortunate in Utah to be on the forefront of collecting and providing meaningful health data.”
Media Contact:
Carol Masheter, Ph.D.
Epidemiologist II
801-538-6355 (office)
801-493-9114 (cell)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get to Know Your Blood Pressure

(Salt Lake City, UT) – ‘Take the stairs’ and ‘reduce sodium’ are two of the messages in  new radio ads encouraging Utahns to make small changes to control or maintain blood pressure. The ads are airing on radio stations along the Wasatch Front. Print ads with the same message are running in newspapers in Tooele, Moab, and Price.

The ads are part of the second phase of a new blood pressure awareness campaign by the Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Program (HDSPP).  Nicole Bissonette, HDSPP manager, says, “The aim of these ads is to show that changes to control blood pressure don’t need to be big.”

“Focusing on lifestyle changes was a natural lead in this campaign,” adds Bissonette.  “Our focus last year was on encouraging Utahns to visit a health care provider and learn their blood pressure numbers. Now, we want people to know that small changes can make a big difference in lowering your risk for heart attack and stroke.”

Other materials for this phase of the campaign will soon be available for download on the HDSPP website and include posters, bookmarks, and a brochure with blood pressure information.

Blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, both of which are leading causes of death in Utah. Seventy-percent of the sodium a person consumes comes from packaged and restaurant foods. To hear the ads and see last year’s campaign materials, visit http://www.hearthighway.org/bp_campaign.html.
Media Contact:
Tania J. Charette, MPH, CHES
Media Coordinator
(801) 538-6423

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Utahns’ Health Holds Steady

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah’s low smoking, binge drinking, and cancer death rates helped it remain among the top 10 healthiest states in the nation. The state hangs onto 7th place in the UHF 2011 report.

The 22nd annual America’s Health Rankings™ rates states on a number of measures that  determine the overall health of a population, including immunization rates, diabetes, heart disease, and infant mortality.

“Our goal is to help Utahns become the healthiest people in the nation,” said Dr. David Patton, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Executive Director. “To do that we must drastically cut our obesity rate, which threatens overall health through diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other conditions,” he added. “We must also get more of our residents covered by health insurance and attract more primary care physicians to the state, especially in rural areas.”

Dr. Robert Rolfs, UDOH Deputy Director and State Epidemiologist, also points to the state’s low childhood immunization rates.  “We fell from 30th last year to 47th this year in getting our children fully vaccinated,” he said. “The measles outbreak the state battled this spring is a reminder that we need parents to step up and take advantage of this simple, life-saving measure.”

Beginning with a case brought into the state by an unvaccinated Utah child who had traveled to Europe, local health departments from the top of Utah to the south sent children home from school and companies pulled workers off the job to stop the spread of the measles virus. 

On the plus side, said Patton, “The report shows a 10 percent drop in preventable re-hospitalizations among Medicare enrollees for conditions like asthma, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. That means our hospitals are sending people home with good self-care plans that the patients are following.”

Utah fares well in several other areas as well, landing in the top 3 in 8 of 22 measures:
Cancer deaths                                    1st
Prevalence of smoking                       1st
Binge drinking                                   2nd
Obesity                                              2nd
Preventable hospitalizations            2nd
Adult diabetes                                   3rd
Infant mortality                                 3rd
Cardiovascular deaths                      3rd

Vermont ranks first in the study. New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts round out the top five. See the full report at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/.

Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
Public Information Officer
(o) 801-538-6232  (m) 801-560-4649
After hours on-call phone 801-209-2591