Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sexual Violence Costs Utahns Dearly: Government spends 5 times more on perpetrators than victims

(Salt Lake City, UT).  For the first time, the Utah Department of Health and Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault have released data showing the economic burden of sexual violence in Utah. The report revealed the costs resulting from sexual violence during a one-year period totaled nearly $5 billion, or approximately $1,700 per Utah resident.

Studies in Utah indicate that one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime and that one in eight women and one in 50 men will experience rape. While Utah falls well below the national average for most violent crimes, the rape rate exceeds the national average. “From year to year, our rape rate is consistently higher than that of the U.S.,” said Teresa Brechlin, UDOH Violence Prevention Coordinator. “We are 7th lowest in the country for homicide but 9th highest for reported rape. This is troubling.”

In addition to the expenditures borne by the social systems that address sexual violence, there are significant personal costs to victims. In fact, the greatest cost of sexual violence – nearly $4 billion – is the pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life that victims experience throughout their lives. Costs due to suffering and lost quality of life, suicidal acts, substance abuse, mental health care, and lost work are the top five most expensive outcomes of sexual violence.

A 25-year-old Utah woman, who wished to remain anonymous, knows these costs all too well. “After the assault, even the simplest day-to-day activities were a struggle for me. I suffered from debilitating social anxiety. I dropped out of school and had a hard time holding down a job.”  This survivor’s experience is not unusual. Victims of sexual violence report being less satisfied with life, having poorer health, not receiving adequate social and emotional support, and being more limited in their activities than those who had not experienced sexual violence. 

For children, sexual violence costs averaged $184,504 per incident. For adults, rape costs were $154,598 per incident and other sexual assaults cost $282 per incident. Data from the report also revealed dramatic differences in the resources that are allocated after a person is sexually assaulted. In 2011, the Utah state government spent approximately $16.5 million on victims of sexual violence (15.1%), while spending more than $92 million on perpetrators of sexual violence (84.4%). Only $569,000 or 0.5% was spent on efforts to prevent sexual violence.

“In spite of significant resources expended on perpetrators of rape and sexual assault, reports of sexual violence have continued to increase; while the negative impacts on victims go largely unaddressed.” said Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “While there is clearly a need to strengthen the criminal justice response to these crimes, it is also clear that a more comprehensive strategy is needed; one that includes an investment in the well-being of those impacted by the crime. This will require increased investment in services that can reduce the long-term costs of unaddressed victimization and a strong commitment to prevention.”

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are preventable.  “Every day, we have opportunities to promote healthy and safe attitudes and beliefs about relationships, gender, and sexuality. We have a responsibility to intervene when we witness unhealthy attitudes and behaviors toward others,” said Ned Searle, Director of the Utah Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence call the rape crisis and information line at (888) 421-1100. To download a copy of the report Costs of Sexual Violence in Utah, visit or 

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Media Contacts:
Teresa Brechlin
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-538-6888 (m) 801-814-5857
Megan Waters
(o) 801-538-6626 (m) 906-458-2701

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Air Quality Resources Can Help Utahns Make Good Health Decisions on Poor Air Quality Days

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – In the midst Utah’s winter inversion season, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) wants to remind Utah residents of several resources they can use to help protect their health during times of poor air quality.

The Department’s Environmental Epidemiology Program maintains a web site with must-read air quality information. Along with air quality conditions that are updated hourly and forecasts supplied by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), visitors can find out how the most common air pollutants affect health, as well as actions that can reduce exposure to harmful air and minimize its adverse health effects. Additionally, the site provides a storehouse of links to the most informative Utah-specific and national air quality resources. 

“We believe people with good information make good choices about their health,” said UDOH environmental toxicologist Craig Dietrich. “We want Utahns to know there is a wealth of high-quality, unbiased information at their fingertips.”

The Department’s MotherToBaby Utah program is a valuable resource for women who are pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding. The program is staffed by trained professionals who can answer questions and provide advice to women who have concerns over how air quality may affect their pregnancy. MotherToBaby Utah is a free service and can be accessed by calling 800-822-2229.

The Department’s Asthma Program offers several resources for adults and children with asthma to help control their symptoms on poor air quality days. The program provides daily recess guidance to schools throughout the state to help determine when students should be kept indoors for recess on poor air quality days.

The Asthma Program also offers air quality flags to help raise awareness about daily air quality conditions. Schools and local organizations can contact the Utah Asthma Program for a free flag kit (limited supply) that corresponds to the Air Quality Index and each day raise a flag that matches current air quality conditions.

People with asthma can also download a symptom-tracking sheet to help them determine at what air quality levels they experience more severe symptoms.

“We know poor air quality has an adverse effect on people’s health,” said Brittany Guerra from the UDOH Asthma Program. “However, everyone is impacted differently, so when people have a better feel for what level of air quality exacerbates their symptoms they can better manage their asthma.”

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Media Contact:
Craig Dietrich, Ph.D., DABT
Utah Department of Health

Monday, January 11, 2016

UDOH, Local Physicians Urge HPV Vaccine for Ages 11 and Up

(Salt Lake City, UT) – You can’t protect your children from everything, but thanks to the HPV vaccine, you can protect them from HPV-related cancers. This is the driving force behind a series of new videos featuring local physicians launched by the Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Cancer Control Program (UCCP) and University of Utah Health Care, whose physicians tell parents about the importance of getting their sons and daughters vaccinated.

“There is a significant gap between awareness of the HPV vaccine and knowledge of it,” said Lynette Phillips, UCCP Program Manager. “The goal of these videos is to answer some of the most common questions parents and adolescents have about the vaccine and to let them know the vaccine is cancer prevention.”

The vaccine protects against cervical and several other cancers in both males and females and is recommended for girls and boys at age 11 or 12. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Utah, only 25.2 percent of females and 14.4 percent of males aged 13-15 had completed the recommended three-dose series of shots in 2014. Nationally, among adolescents aged 13-15 years, coverage for the three-dose series of HPV vaccine was 34.4 percent among females and 20.6 percent among males. HPV vaccination coverage lags behind other adolescent vaccination estimates and these percentages fall well below the national goal of 80 percent coverage for adolescents.

“As researchers worldwide search for cures for many types of cancer, we already have a proven prevention technique that could eliminate one form of cancer. That’s why we need to help protect our children by promoting HPV vaccination,” said Dr. Brandon Reynolds, an obstetrician and gynecologist with University of Utah Health Care featured in the videos.

“We hope this campaign will encourage parents to talk to their child's pediatrician about HPV,” said Phillips. “The cancers and complications caused by HPV can have lifelong consequences for children and adults. The vaccine is a safe and easy way to protect our kids from one more health risk."

Parents with questions about the HPV vaccine should contact their health care provider, pharmacist, or local health department. To see the videos, visit

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Media Contact:

Shannon Rice
Cancer Control Program
(o) 801-538-6277 (m) 801-699-8149