Friday, May 30, 2014

30 Years, 230,000 Questions Later, Pregnancy Risk Line Still Saving Babies’ Lives

(Salt Lake City, UT) – For three decades, the Pregnancy Risk Line’s (PRL) MotherToBaby service has helped mothers and health care providers keep babies safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.  On May 30, the program celebrates 30 years of service and will take its 230,000th call, give or take a few.

The experts at MotherToBaby answer questions about a variety of potential exposures like foods, prescriptions, medications, diseases, and immunizations a baby can be exposed to through Mom. “Health care providers ask about pain medications, moms want to know if it’s safe to paint the nursery, even grandmothers call to ask whether mom is doing too much exercise,” says program coordinator Lynn Martinez. “Every call is important. We’re happy to be helping families feel safer and navigate through a stressful time.” 

Geneticist John C. Carey, M.D., founder and MotherToBaby medical director, remembers getting the idea for the service in 1979 when he first started his practice in pediatric genetics. “We struggled with helping moms who often felt deep guilt about the exposure they had received, causing their child’s birth defect, when in fact it hadn’t,” said Carey. “The service still faces some of the same challenges today,” he added. “With access to information more available but not always reliable, moms feel the risk to baby is higher than what has been proven, and providers often find conflicting information in published research.”

Experts at MotherToBaby review new studies, compare findings to past studies, and work with professionals from other disciplines to determine the risk for exposures. 

“The personalized risk assessments we provide help clinicians and mothers determine the best course for each situation,” Martinez said, “Sometimes there are risky conditions and risky medications, such as using an antiepileptic medication versus the danger of leaving the mom’s epilepsy uncontrolled. We provide the latest evidence-based information to help the primary care provider and mom make an informed choice, together.”

Former First Lady Norma Matheson was on hand 30 years ago and said hello to the first caller. She is happy to return to help celebrate the anniversary. “The Risk Line has been a reassuring resource for moms who just want to do what’s best for their growing baby,” said the First Lady.  I’m proud of the work MotherToBaby staff have been doing for Utah mothers-to-be and wish them another 30 year of helping save babies’ lives.” 

PRL’s MotherToBaby is a joint partnership between the Utah Department of Health and the University of Utah. It is one of 16 member services of the North American Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, now known as MotherToBaby. The service is open for calls Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. at 1-800-822-2229 or 801-328-2229. For more information visit or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Reports Detail Utah Suicides, Suicide Attempts

(Salt Lake City, UT) – A series of new reports from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) are a startling reminder of the tragic loss too many Utah families experience with suicide. In 2012, 545 Utahns took their own lives, up from 456 in 2011. The state’s suicide rate has been consistently higher than the U.S. rate for more than a decade and is the 7th highest in the country.  In 2010, suicide was Utah’s 6th leading cause of death.

“Suicide is one of those things that can be uncomfortable to talk about,” said Teresa Betzer, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “But the data show this is a problem we can’t ignore any longer. We all can play a role in preventing suicide.”  Betzer says many Utahns would be surprised to learn how many people close to them have dealt with the issue.

Since 2010, an average of 501 Utahns died from suicide and 3,968 more were hospitalized or treated in an emergency department due to injuries from a suicide attempt each year. The data show that men ages 25-64 account for more than half (56.2%) of all suicide deaths in Utah, followed by women ages 25-64 (17.2%), young adults ages 18-24 (11.8%), older adults ages 65+ (10.7%), and youth ages 10-17 (4.0%). While males had higher rates of suicide death than females, more females attempt suicide than males. Youth and young adults were also more likely to attempt suicide.

The data also point to age-specific circumstances and stressors surrounding risk for suicide deaths in Utah. For example, adult females had significantly higher rates of
diagnosed mental illness, job problems, and death of a close family member or friend, while adult males were more likely to have alcohol and financial problems.

Among youth and young adults, the data show many experience relationship problems, including intimate partner relationship difficulties. Young adult males also had higher rates of substance abuse problems and a history of suicide attempts. Older adults were more likely to suffer from physical health problems that may have prompted the suicide.

To draw further attention to this issue, Governor Gary R. Herbert set aside today, May 22, 2014, as a day dedicated to the prevention of suicide. Agencies throughout the state have come together to develop a plan to decrease the number of suicide attempts and deaths in Utah.  Led by the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition, these efforts include assessing suicide risk, referring those at risk for suicide to prevention resources, intervention and treatment, and providing support to survivors, family members and communities.

“The goal is for all Utahns to recognize that treatment and intervention work. Suicide is a public health problem and is preventable,” said Betzer. “If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or talking about suicide, know that help is available.”

"Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention," said Kim Myers, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Utah Department of Human Services. "We encourage all Utahns to learn the warning signs, help others who are struggling, call the prevention lines and, ultimately, save a life." 

All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available online at Trained consultants will provide free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need.

To download the suicide data reports visit

The Utah Department of Human Services works to ensure children, families and adults in Utah communities are receiving the services they need to lead safe and healthy lives. For more information, and to find services in your area, visit           

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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.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rule the Rocks 7 Tour Winds Up Saturday: Competition tells youth: Big Tobacco is still after you

(Salt Lake City) – The Utah Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program’s (TPCP) way to quit campaign will wrap up its skateboarding/BMX competitions in Southern and Eastern Utah as part of its 7th annual Rule the Rocks event.

Youth of all skill levels have been competing  in one of three categories: beginner, intermediate or advanced for skateboarding or BMX. All entrants receive an event t-shirt, and the top three from each group win cash and gear. Entrance is free.

“The tobacco industry is constantly looking for new customers,” said TPCP marketing manager Adam Bramwell. “Youth, especially those in rural communities and with alternative interests, are on Big Tobacco’s radar, which is why we host events like Rule the Rocks.” Bramwell added, “Bringing a large scale competition to their town sparks a one-on-one dialogue for reminding them the best way to quit tobacco is to never start.”

The competition is exclusive to rural Utah. The final two days are May 9 in Moab and May 10 in Cedar City.

Ninety percent of adult smokers begin lighting up before age 19 and one in three will eventually die of their addiction. Quitting is different for everyone. Smokers are encouraged to find their way to quit by visiting or by calling the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW.

Rule The Rocks 7 Event Schedule:
Moab, Utah
Friday, May 9, 2014
The Skate Park in Swanny City Park
400 North 100 West
Registration: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Competition:  5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Cedar City, Utah
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Exit 59 Skateboard Park
660 W. 945 N. (Bicentennial Park)
Registration: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Competition: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
way to quit Rule the Rocks 7 is sponsored in part by Arkade Magazine and 50/50 BMX.

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The mission of the Utah Department of Health and Utah’s local health departments 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, May 7, 2014

UDOH Supports New Mothers’ Milk Bank

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Everyone knows mother’s milk is best for babies, but some moms who deliver prematurely may need other moms’ or outside help. That’s why the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is partnering with the Utah Breastfeeding Coalition on the first Miracle Milk Mother’s Play Day Stroll.

Judy Harris, MPH, RD, IBCLC, State Breastfeeding Coordinator with the UDOH WIC Program says “We want Utahns to know there is an ongoing urgent need for human milk.” Harris says babies born early or with other health or GI problems are in particular need of human milk due to its wonderfully specific properties. If their mom is not yet producing enough milk, or has other complications making them unable to breastfeed, other moms can help out.  “Banked mother’s milk is truly a lifesaver,” says Harris.

The Mothers' Play Day Stroll is Saturday, May 10 from 10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Salt Lake’s Liberty Park. It starts at the Rice Terrace Pavilion on the northeast corner of the park. The stroll goal is to raise awareness and funds.

Utah moms currently donate at four collection sites in Utah, which send the milk to Denver for processing; some of that milk comes back for use in Utah. The newly-formed Salt Lake City non-profit Mountain West Mothers’ Milk Bank is asking for milk donations to prepare for the needed infrastructure to open the physical bank in 2016. This will make getting milk easier and faster. “It’s also great that our milk stays with our babies, and it will save Utah health dollars,” said Harris. “It’s well documented that breast milk can make the difference in life or death for premature babies, particularly those with a dangerous condition called “necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).”

NEC is a costly digestive disorder that occurs frequently in preemies and is one of the leading causes of death for babies born too soon.

For more information on the Mother’s Milk Bank, contact Judy Harris at 801-538-6122 or Meghan Reed at 801-696-5787.


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.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Children's Autism Program Now Accepting New Applicants

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Medicaid Autism Waiver program is open for enrollment and will accept applications until Sunday, May 18 to fill 35 openings in the program.  The program was originally funded as a two-year pilot project, but was made an ongoing program during the 2014 legislative session (House Bill 88). The program provides treatment for approximately 290 children, ages two through six, who are clinically-diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  

Since its implementation, the Waiver has provided services to more than 300 children statewide.   During the first year of measurement, outcomes were extremely positive in both verbal and behavioral trajectories for the enrolled participants.  The program provides intensive individual support for children with ASD, as well as respite care for families.  Data have shown that early, intensive treatment gives children with ASD the best chance to reach their full potential.  

“The difference from a year ago is just unbelievable,” said one Utah mother whose six-year-old son has been enrolled in the program since it launched in October 2012.  “He is learning coping skills and learning to ask and take ‘no’ as an answer. It’s giving us as a family the tools to help with his issues and struggle. It’s a family process and not just about him.”

To enroll in the program, applications must be received by Sunday, May 18.  Applications can be submitted online at  Parents can also print the application and submit it by fax (801-536‐0153) or by mail (UDOH, PO Box 143112, Salt Lake City, UT 84114).

Applicants are not selected on a first come, first served basis.  Once the application period ends, if more than 35 applications are received, random selections will be made by geographical area based upon on each local health district’s population, to ensure statewide access.  Children currently participating in the program will not need to re-apply.  

To be eligible for the program, a child must have a clinical diagnosis of ASD and be a Utah resident with a date of birth between December 1, 2007 and May 31, 2011.  The child must also not have assets (bank accounts, trust funds, etc.) of more than $2,000 in his or her name. Unlike traditional Medicaid, a parent’s income and assets are not considered when determining the child’s eligibility.  Children currently enrolled in traditional Medicaid will not be automatically eligible for the program and will need to apply.  
Another Utah mother of a four-year-old son added, “It has helped my child by helping him learn things that he wouldn’t be able to do on his own. He was totally nonverbal and now he is saying words.  It’s been a game changer for us and given us a lot of hope and help after having difficulties with autism.”
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Media Contact:
Kolbi Young

Thursday, May 1, 2014

More Hospital Healthcare Workers Getting Influenza Vaccinations

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) released the annual Healthcare Worker (HCW) Influenza Vaccination Coverage Report for HCWs in licensed* Utah hospitals. The report was developed by the UDOH in partnership with the Utah Healthcare Infection Prevention Governance Committee (UHIP GC). Using this report, Utahns will be able to compare influenza vaccination rates for healthcare workers among licensed hospitals in Utah.

The report lists all reporting licensed Utah hospitals, along with their influenza vaccination rates for hospital HCWs, for the 2013-2014 influenza season. The data show that healthcare worker influenza vaccination rates in Utah hospitals have consistently increased, from 75.5 percent in 2008 to 96.2 percent in 2014. The report is available on the UDOH Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) website at

“Low HCW influenza immunization rates can lead to increased influenza infections, putting patients at risk for serious complications, said Allyn Nakashima, M.D., State Epidemiologist, UDOH. “The good news is that Utah hospitals continue to see improvements in influenza vaccination rates among HCWs, reducing the potential for these deadly infections.”

The UDOH and the UHIP GC agree that influenza vaccination of healthcare personnel is a critical patient safety practice that should be required in all healthcare facilities, unless an organization has achieved a vaccination rate greater than 95 percent by other means. In November 2007, the UDOH adopted a Healthcare Associated Infections reporting rule (Rule 38670 Epidemiology, Healthcare Associated Infection.) This rule requires that hospitals report healthcare worker influenza vaccination rates.
 In November 2007, the UDOH adopted a Healthcare Associated Infections reporting rule
(Rule386‐70Epidemiology, Healthcare Associated Infection). This rule requires that hospitals report healthcare worker influenza vaccination rates. 
In April 2011, the UHIP GC recommended that all healthcare delivery facilities in Utah implement a policy of compulsory annual influenza vaccination for all healthcare personnel. While the Utah hospitals are not required to have mandatory influenza vaccination programs for healthcare workers, some Utah healthcare facilities have compulsory programs in place. Healthcare organizations that do not have an effective healthcare worker influenza vaccination policy are strongly encouraged to develop one.

Visit for more information about UHIP GC members.

*Licensed hospitals include acute care, long-term acute care, critical access, rehabilitation, psychiatric, government and children’s hospitals.

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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 healthcare, and promoting healthy lifestyles.