Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Medicaid Expansion Options Community Workgroup to Meet

What:   The Medicaid Expansion Options Community Workgroup will meet to continue to explore the state’s options regarding a potential expansion of the Medicaid program under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Why:    The workgroup will receive an economic perspectives report as well as updates from individual subgroups.  The full agenda is available here: http://www.utah.gov/pmn/sitemap/notice/171831.html
Who:    The workgroup is comprised of business, community and government leaders, legislators, advocates for low-income individuals and families, and other stakeholders from the health care industry.
When: Thursday, August 1, 2013
            1:30 p.m.

Where: Utah State Capitol complex
Room 210 – Senate building 

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Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
PIO, Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Exercise Outdoors, Stay Safe with Tips from Doctors and Air Quality Experts

Salt Lake City, Utah – Much of Utahns’ physical activity happens outside. Tips and tools available from the Division of Air Quality (DAQ), Department of Health (DOH), and Intermountain Healthcare ensure all Utahns can exercise outside and minimize impacts to health. 

Ozone pollution – formed during the hot, sunny days of summer – can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing and throat irritation. It is a particular concern for children, the elderly and those with respiratory disorders. During outdoor physical activity even healthy adults may experience health effects during high ozone periods. Impacts occur during physical activity as ozone penetrates deeper into the parts of the lungs that are more vulnerable to injury. 

Local research done by cardiologists at Intermountain Medical Center shows that even short-term exposure to bad air can impact heart and lung health. “For Utahns with coronary heart disease the risk of heart attack doubles on days with high pollution episodes,” said Dr. Muhlestein, a cardiologist with Intermountain Heart Institute. 

The keys to staying safe while exercising outside are knowing where to find information about pollution levels and avoiding outdoor activity when ozone is highest.

“Ozone is harmful, but predictable. We know it’s highest between noon and 6PM and encourage Utahns to exercise outdoors earlier in the morning or in the evening to avoid peak pollution hours,” said Dr. Robert Rolfs, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health. 

The Utah Asthma Program publishes physical activity guidelines for Utahns to use in planning outdoor exercise time during pollution episodes. 

The Division of Air Quality’s website has both real time pollution readings and forecast information available to inform Utahns of high pollution events taking place or about to happen. 

“We want Utahns to use this data and understand their air quality,” said Bryce Bird, director of Utah’s Division of Air Quality. In addition to the air quality website, the division sends email alerts when pollution builds.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Terri Flint is familiar with promoting healthy lifestyles for Utah’s communities. “We want people to do the simple things like parking a little farther away at the grocery store, playing Frisbee with their kids, or even adding more steps to their daily routine,” Flint said, adding, “but we want them to do this safely and clean air is critical to the goal of increasing activity and community health.” 

DAQ, DOH and Intermountain Healthcare will continue to coordinate on air quality and health issues and partner together to get the word out. “We came together today to talk about the work being done to help improve air quality, study impacts to health, and also to encourage Utahns to learn about how they can stay safe and stay healthy by exercising outdoors,” Bird added. 

More information is available at: 

Donna Kemp Spangler, (801) 536-4480
Communications Director
Charla Haley, (801) 273-4178
Risk Communications Coordinator

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Utah Babies to Benefit from Education, Screening for Congenital Cytomegalovirus

(Salt Lake City, UT) – This week Utah becomes the first state in the nation to launch an education and screening campaign for cytomegalovirus, commonly referred to as CMV.

CMV, a member of the herpes family of viruses, is a common virus that infects people of all ages.  Most healthy children and adults with CMV don’t feel sick and don’t know they have been infected; others may have mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, fatigue or swollen glands.

Harper Randall, M.D., Medical Director, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Division of Family Health and Preparedness, says, “Most CMV infections are ‘silent’, meaning the majority of people who have it have no signs or symptoms, and there are no harmful effects. However, when CMV occurs during a woman’s pregnancy, the baby can become infected before birth. It’s then known congenital CMV.”

An average of 365 babies – or one per day – is born with CMV in Utah each year.  When this happens, the virus is transmitted to the unborn infant and can potentially affect the brain, eyes and/or inner ears.  About 1 of every 5 children born with congenital CMV infection will develop permanent problems, such as hearing loss or developmental disabilities.

In an effort to make moms-to-be aware of CMV, Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, submitted and succeeded in passing H.B. 81, which directs UDOH to educate women about the dangers of CMV in pregnancy, and more importantly, how to prevent it.

The virus is generally passed from infected people to others through direct contact with body fluids like urine and saliva.  An infected person can look healthy and still pass the virus to another person for a period of several months after being infected.

Richard Harward, Au.D., Director, UDOH Children with Special Health Care Needs Bureau, says one of the best prevention strategies is the easiest. “Good personal hygiene is key and  includes washing hands often with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers, feeding a young child, wiping a young child’s nose or mouth, or after handling children’s toys.” 

Harward also says pregnant women should not share food, drinks, eating utensils or a toothbrush with a child, and not put a child’s pacifier in her mouth.

In addition to cytomegalovirus (CMV) public education, H.B. 81 requires medical practitioners to test newborns for congenital CMV before 21 days of age if they have failed two hearing screenings.

Utah has been screening newborns for hearing loss in the first few days of life since 1998.  Stephanie McVicar, Au.D., Director, UDOH Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, says  congenital CMV is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in children. McVicar stresses the importance of timely newborn hearing screening follow-up.  “If a baby fails the hearing screening in the hospital, it’s very important that the child be re-screened before 14 days of age.  If the baby then does not pass this second screening, their medical provider will talk to the family about congenital CMV testing.”

If a baby tests positive for CMV, appropriate referrals will be made to other specialists as needed.   Harward says hearing loss and overall development should be monitored closely, and Randall adds that infants, children, and adults who are infected with CMV after birth rarely have problems.  “Our education effort is about preventing CMV infection during pregnancy, when it could present a danger to the unborn child,” said Randall.

More information on CMV is available through the MotherToBaby Utah hotline at (800) 822-2229 or by visiting http://www.health.utah.gov/cshcn/CHSS/CMV.html.

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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.