Get Healthy Utah News and Blog

January 17th 2024

Morgan Hadden Morgan is the Program Coordinator for Get Healthy Utah. She graduated from Utah State University with a B.S. and M.P.H in Health Education and Promotion. Chances are, your city or t...

January 2nd 2024

Greg Bell Greg Bell is the outgoing Get Healthy Utah Board Chair. Greg previously served as president of the Utah Hospitals Association and lieutenant governor for Utah. In 2014, a group of us cre...

November 3rd 2023

Cindy Nelson Cindy is an Extension Associate Professor in Beaver County Utah with responsibilities in Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H. She loves the people she serves, and the variety of progra...

October 17th 2023

Get Healthy Utah held its annual Stakeholder Retreat this October at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan. This year’s theme was “Connection: Building a Culture of Health.” Topics included the con...

September 26th 2023

Devynne Andrews, JD Devynne Andrews is the Communications Coordinator for Get Healthy Utah. Recently, the Get Healthy Utah staff attended an advance screening of UnCharitable, a documentary about...

September 5th 2023

Get Healthy Utah, in conjunction with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, is pleased to announce the newest Healthy Utah Community designees. Four cities and towns qualified this fall: Coalville, Hol...

August 4th 2023

Dr. Amy Locke Amy Locke is the Chief Wellness Officer for the University of Utah Health, executive director of the University of Utah Health Resiliency Center, Professor of Family and Preventive Med...

July 31st 2023

Elisa Soulier Elisa Soulier is the Vice Chair for the Get Healthy Utah Board. She works as Director of Health and Wellbeing at Castell. She focuses on delivering more high value holistic care for pa...

July 17th 2023

Jennifer Porter and Rachel Bowman Jennifer Porter, RDN, is a Health Program Coordinator, and Rachel Bowman is a Nutrition Coordinator for the Utah WIC program. Visit wic.utah.gov to learn more. Nu...

July 11th 2023

Key Takeaways: “Green streets” have more plants, soil, and water-friendly systems than traditional streets Originally, green streets were designed to capture rainwater locally Green streets al...

Cover for Utah Foundation Report

June 28th 2023

The Utah Foundation recently released a report, Healthy Communities: Advancing Wellness and Safety, focused on policy solutions for Utah communities to increase physical activity. The report is meant...

June 9th 2023

Get Healthy Utah held its annual Advisory Council this May. We want to thank everyone who attended and shared their ideas on how we can improve healthy eating and active living in Utah through system-...

Two adults and two kids doing pottery.

May 16th 2023

Key Takeaways: Utahns are in a mental health crisis and need the healing and social connection that arts and culture can deliver. The arts foster connection, support the healing process, and com...

Healthy Utah Community Logo

April 24th 2023

Get Healthy Utah, in conjunction with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, is pleased to announce the newest designees of the Healthy Utah Community award. Six cities and towns qualified this spring:...

Children Eating Lunch at School

April 19th 2023

Kathleen Britton Kathleen Britton, SNS has served as the Director of Child Nutrition Programs at the Utah State Board of Education, since February 2014. Ms. Britton began her nutrition work as a Die...

Kids at Recess

April 10th 2023

Kimberly Clevenger Kimberly Clevenger is an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Health Science at Utah State University, with a background in exercise physiology. Her research interests are in th...

School child with healthy school lunch

March 25th 2023

Greg Bell Greg Bell is the Get Healthy Utah Board Chair. Greg is president of the Utah Hospitals Association, and previously served as lieutenant governor for Utah. Recent research in Great Britai...

February 27th 2023

This February, Get Healthy Utah and the Utah Worksite Wellness Council held the Utah Business of Health event, with the theme “Good Health is Good Business.” Leaders from Utah businesses and insurance...

October 28th 2022

Get Healthy Utah held its annual Stakeholder Retreat this October in Salt Lake City, with the theme “Building Healthier Communities.” A variety of leaders attended to learn more about their common...

August 3rd 2022

Organization: Get Healthy Utah Contact: Alysia Ducuara, Executive Director Location: 2180 S 1300 E, Suite 440, Salt Lake City, UT 84106 Program Details: The mission of Get Healthy Utah is to c...

July 14th 2022

In June 2022, Get Healthy Utah offered mini-grants to cities and towns that want to provide their citizens with better opportunities for healthy living. Cities and towns could apply for up to $5,000 t...

October 13th 2021

Each year, Get Healthy Utah gives Partnership Awards to organizations that have collaborated across sectors to significantly improve community health. This year at the Fall 2021 Get Healthy Utah Stake...

October 13th 2021

The Fall 2021 Get Healthy Utah Stakeholder Retreat was held in-person on October 7th in Salt Lake City. Attendees represented various sectors that have an upstream impact on community health, such as...

August 1st 2021

On June 30, 2021, Get Healthy Utah held a virtual information session on type 2 diabetes, the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), and the importance of Medicaid coverage. During the i...

June 2nd 2021

The Annual Get Healthy Utah Stakeholder Retreat was held virtually on May 5, 2021. The event focused on the One Utah Roadmap. Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson provided the keynote address. The closing s...

March 10th 2021

What is a wellness policy? A wellness policy creates a safe and healthy environment for students and staff to practice lifelong healthy habits. The school community (which includes parents, students...

November 3rd 2020

Social and economic conditions where we live, work, and play can impact our health status. These include income, affordable housing, safe places to walk, healthy food access, discrimination, and healt...

August 20th 2020

Get Healthy Utah is proud to have partnered with Comagine Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Utah Department of Health, and University of Utah Health to host the free virtual summit for worksites Impro...

August 4th 2020

Jeff Hummel, MD, MPH Medical Director, Health Care Informatics, Comagine Health Meredith Agen, MBA Vice President, Health Care Analytics, Comagine Health The COVID-19 pandemic has seemed both distan...

June 20th 2020

Guest Post by Brett McIff Brett McIff, PhD is the Physical Activity Coordinator for the EPICC Program at the Utah Department of Health. His research has focused on the perception of the built envir...

April 21st 2020

Rural communities often have poorer health outcomes than non-rural communities. This is due, in part, to barriers to accessing healthy food, opportunities for physical activity, and mental health reso...

April 15th 2020

A new, and timely, report from the Utah Foundation examines trends and challenges related to teleworking. Findings include: Teleworking seems to have a positive effect on productivity and employee...

March 24th 2020

Gyms, recreational facilities, schools, and extracurricular activities are cancelled. While we are all doing our part to stay home and maintain proper social distancing, it is important to be physical...

March 18th 2020

To help in preventing the spread of COVID-19, Utah schools are dismissed for a soft closure until March 27th. What does this mean for school meals? On average, 50% of Utah K-12 students participat...

February 20th 2020

Guest Blog Post By, Kate Wheeler, Child Nutrition Specialist, Utah State Board of Education Kate works on farm to fork and local procurement initiatives. Kate has an MPH from Emory University. Prior...

January 14th 2020

The Utah State Board of Education has provided Best Practice for Recess Guidelines. While not mandated, the guidelines support the Utah State Board of Education’s Strategic Plan Safe and Healthy Schoo...

Two adults and two kids doing pottery.

Guest Post: The Arts and Healing

Key Takeaways:

  • Utahns are in a mental health crisis and need the healing and social connection that arts and culture can deliver.
  • The arts foster connection, support the healing process, and complement other modalities to improve well-being.
  • Current arts projects and initiatives show encouraging results.

Natalie Petersen

Natalie Petersen is the assistant director at the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, a division of the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement. Her passion is strengthening communities through cultural engagement and connecting people with each other, knowledge, and resources to expand opportunities and solve problems. 

Utah’s mental health crisis demonstrates that there is great need for connection and healing in our society. Personal interest, along with work in both the cultural and mental health sectors, has led me on an exploratory journey for solutions, and the rapidly expanding field of arts and healing keeps rising to the top. Arts interventions are increasingly used to support health and well-being, because they work – in contributing to improved healthcare outcomes, strengthened social supports, higher levels of patient and staff satisfaction, lower healthcare costs, and improved quality of life. 

The arts and healing ecosystem is defined by the National Organization for Arts and Health as “…dedicated to using the power of the arts to enhance health and well-being in diverse institutional and community contexts. Comprised of many subfields and affiliated fields, arts in health supports health as defined by the World Health Organization, as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

As I was wrapping up this post, an advisory from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy was released on “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” which reports the negative effects of loneliness on individual and societal health, and proposes a path to building a stronger, healthier, more connected society. 

He emphasizes that “...we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis.” Arts and culture can support multiple pillars as outlined in the advisory, such as Strengthening Social Infrastructure in Local Communities, Mobilizing the Health Sector, and Building a Culture of Connection. Project Unlonely through the Foundation for Art and Healing is one example of an organization addressing the epidemic of loneliness by using creativity as a means of connection. 

There is a wealth of data on the efficacy of the arts in fostering connection, supporting the healing process, and complementing other modalities to improve well-being. And, there are researchers who are evaluating this data. One researcher I follow is Dr. Stacey Springs, the research integrity officer for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago, where she explained her partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to review evidence and gaps in the field of arts and health, which guided many arts and health initiatives. One such example of research surrounding music in healing is explored in a co-authored study, “Music in the Treatment and Management of Serious Mental Illness: A Global Scoping of the Literature.” 

As I reflect on societal issues and the need for connection and healing, I ask again: Why does the field of arts and healing matter? The answer that surfaces is, from individual to global scope, we fundamentally and desperately need the healing and social connection that arts and culture can uniquely deliver. 

I recently encountered some very sobering statistics in Utah’s Mental Health System report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, including Utah having a higher rate of adult mental illness than any other state; suicide being the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10-24; and nearly 60% of Utah’s depressed youth aged 12-17 not receiving treatment for depression. We’ve all heard of – and likely experienced, to varying degrees – how rough the pandemic was on all dimensions of health. But this report was published in 2019, before COVID. When I saw this data, I was floored, considering the multifaceted implications to individuals and society as a whole. 

As with many problems, both causes and solutions are often complex. Are Utahns aware of these statistics that define our state in such an unflattering way? Unfortunately, there is still such stigma surrounding mental health that it’s a harder topic to address than, say, high blood pressure. This stigma keeps people from getting help. 

How can arts and culture aid in destigmatizing mental health issues? They provide a platform or space for confronting these issues, as well as the tools and means of expression for exploration, often within a supportive community. One particularly interesting article, Arts, Culture, and Community Mental Health, examines the impact of creative placemaking on mental health, including domains such as stigma, trauma, community-level stress, depression, substance use disorders, and cultural identity. The “100 Stone Project” is shared as a relevant example of a statewide initiative in Alaska to raise suicide awareness. Stories of illness, trauma, grief, and disability were shared by those identified as “the most vulnerable community members.” Artists created plaster casts of the individuals in various poses, providing physical representations as both recognition of their experience and focal points to stimulate awareness and open dialogue. 

Another broad and ambitious initiative was led by The Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida entitled “Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America.” This three-year national project began with collaboration, bringing together “...over 300 thought leaders from the arts and culture, public health, and community development sectors to explore current practices, priorities, evidence and policy changes needed to enable community-based practice at the intersections of the arts and public health.” The next steps were Discovery (a multifaceted research strategy), Translation (development of a variety of resources based on the research), and Dissemination (extensive communications strategies to make the resources widely available).

Many efforts like those described are taking place worldwide. I have observed a gradual shift recently – evidenced by increased public dialogue, dedicated resources, and legislation fueled by COVID – of bringing public health (including mental health) to the forefront of public awareness. Professionals from a variety of fields are working valiantly to address the problems surrounding mental health. A growing number of quantitative and qualitative studies published in peer-reviewed journals provide evidence of the benefits of arts and culture to patients, caregivers, and community groups, and they are being integrated into plans for individual and community well-being and health. Some doctors dispense “social prescriptions” for patients to create, relax, and connect with others, based on evidence that they improve patient outcomes and decrease medical costs. 

Local work in this arena is encouraging, such as the Creative Arts Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute; a recent University of Utah student exhibition called “2023 Healing Art Exhibit: Managing Burnout” (based on a model from the UC Irvine Healing Arts Program); and multiple wellness programs in visual arts, music, dance, writing, and other forms of creative expression that promote health and well-being offered by cultural organizations throughout the state. One powerful effort to help address the problem of youth depression and suicide is Utah Shakespeare Fesival’s tour of the life-affirming play “Every Brilliant Thing,” offered to every public high school in the state. It’s wonderful to see initiatives that foster healthy creative expression, destigmatize mental health challenges, and foster connection. 

Even closer to home are programs such as A Lifetime of Arts Elevated: Creative Aging, Poetry Out Loud, and the Measurement of Museum Social Impact offered through my work at the Division of Arts & Museums. Our division, along with our parent agency, Department of Cultural & Community Engagement, offers a rich variety of programs and services to support the health and well-being of Utahns. Some of these fall within the traditional realm of arts and healing, while others have a focus on sparking curiosity, learning, and the healing balm of social connection. 

A few of these include UServeUtah’s Healthcare Corps, where community health workers provide vital health education, including social resources to improve patient lives; Utah STEM Action Center’s Innovation Hub, which builds a social network of curious, creative minds; and the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs’ community convenings. My hope is that with increased awareness of the value and availability of these resources, Utahns can use them to – individually and collectively – move toward greater healing. 

Healthy Utah Community Logo

Spring 2023 Healthy Utah Community Designees Announced

Healthy Utah Community blue background min

Get Healthy Utah, in conjunction with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, is pleased to announce the newest designees of the Healthy Utah Community award. Six cities and towns qualified this spring: Harrisville, Lindon, Price, Providence, Riverdale, and Santaquin.

 

Harrisville

Harrisville is committed to active living, with walking and biking trails for all its residents. The city also has provided its residents with a community garden. Harrisville has formed partnerships to promote the safe use and disposal of medications. And the city actively trains its first responders on mental health crises and suicide prevention. 

Moving forward, Harrisville has established a community coalition, including the mayor, members of the local health department, and residents. The coalition hopes to engage some local businesses as well. Harrisville plans to conduct a moveability audit to identify and strengthen community access to open lands such as parks, employment, access to shopping, and education.

Harrisville Community Garden

Lindon City

Lindon has been working hard on building a healthy community! The city has created a master bicycle plan that incorporates a heritage trail system from the mountain to the lake. Lindon also built a pedestrian and biking path to create safe access to four schools. To help its residents have access to healthy food, Lindon has a Farmers Market that accepts SNAP, and has worked to improve its local food pantry. Lindon has also worked to promote mental wellbeing for seniors and teenagers, through a variety of events.

Over the next three years, Lindon is planning to establish a Communities that Care chapter to offer residents classes and resources. The city is going to continue to invest in its Safe Routes to School corridor. And a new annual community event for teenagers will teach about resources for mental health, healthy cooking, and other healthy living strategies.

Lindon Huck Finn Games

Price

We love how Price, a smaller city in Utah, leveraged its existing resources to focus on building a healthy community! Price built on an existing coalition to focus its efforts on building a healthy, vibrant downtown district. Price is adding designated bike lanes to its downtown streets. Many departments and partners in Price have been working to promote healthy eating through classes and messaging campaigns. And the city provides boxes to safely dispose of medication.

Leaders in Price are working hard to create an outdoor place where community members can gather and enjoy being outside during all seasons. 

Price Pharmaceutical Disposal

Providence

Providence adopted a sidewalk and lighting ordinance, to create a more pedestrian friendly experience. The city is also modeling healthy workplace strategies, by providing healthy snacks for staff members and encouraging healthy food habits. And the city has provided a box to safely dispose of medications.

Providence has formed a coalition that is working hard to reach out to diverse stakeholders and thoughtfully promote health. The coalition created a community survey and gathered feedback from residents about how to improve the quality of life over the next three years. As part of their health plan, Providence is going to improve Safe Routes to School, and implement new community programs to promote access to healthy food.

Healthy Snack for City Workers

Riverdale

We love how Riverdale has implemented several strategies that promote multiple health areas. Riverdale holds a 5k and Half Marathon, which both encourages active living and raises awareness of opioid addiction and underage drinking. The city also holds free classes at the Community Center for residents to learn about healthy eating and stress management. 

To meet the coalition requirement, Riverdale also decided to build on an existing coalition! Riverdale is going to work together with the Bonneville Communities that Care to discuss and promote health strategies. Riverdale is working to offer at least one quarterly community activity for families to get active.

Half-Marathon Participants

Santaquin

Santaquin has officially adopted an Active Transportation Plan, and provides several community sports programs. The city council worked hard to bring a local grocery store, which will continue to provide many residents with access to healthy food. The city also provides community cooking classes, starting this year. For mental wellbeing, Santaquin provides meals at the senior center. And the city has worked to model good workplace wellbeing practices, by offering free fitness classes to city employees, as well as an Employee Assistance Plan.

Santaquin’s coalition is working to learn more about the best strategies to promote health, by inviting local experts to their meetings. Moving forward, Santaquin is going to provide its residents with more access to nature by developing its trails and parks systems. Santaquin is also expanding programs for residents to connect with each other, through summer parks programs and other events.

Senior Field Trip 2022

Children Eating Lunch at School

Message from the Board: Updates to School Lunch Rules

Kathleen Britton

Kathleen Britton, SNS has served as the Director of Child Nutrition Programs at the Utah State Board of Education, since February 2014. Ms. Britton began her nutrition work as a Diet Tech. in Cobleskill, NY at a home for the aging. She moved to Park City in 1983 and worked at the University of Utah Dietetic Department with burn and heart patients. She soon found her love of child nutrition and worked as the Director of Child Nutrition Services, Park City School District from 1992-2014. She is very passionate about child nutrition and feels we can all make a difference in a child’s life.

Wow! Has it really been 13 years since the Healthy Hunger Kids Free Act of 2010 passed? This Act helped strengthen nutrition standards for meals and beverages provided through the National School Lunch, Breakfast, and Smart Snacks Programs, affecting 50 million children daily at 99,000 schools.


So, what is next for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) child nutrition programs? By law, USDA is required to develop school nutrition standards that reflect the goals of the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which found that most kids are consuming too much sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, and not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Hence, the new proposed rule. Here’s what you need to know:

The proposed rule applies to the following child nutrition programs: National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This also applies to organizations serving American Indian or Alaskan Native children through the schools' programs.

What is the next step? If you would like your opinion heard or would like to express your knowledge on this proposed rule, USDA encourages all interested stakeholders to submit comments by May 10, 2023.

Here are some key points to keep in mind that will be addressed in the proposed rule:

  • Limits on added sugar, starting with grain-based desserts, breakfast cereals, yogurts, and flavored milks, and then also a weekly limit as previously done with Child and Adult Care Food Program requirements.
  • Options for offering flavored milk.
  • Options for grains, of which allow for some enriched grains to be served.
  • Sodium reduction.

Helpful resources:

Visit the USDA website. This webpage contains a full description of the proposed provisions in the proposed rule and specifics on proposed provisions for added sugars, milk, sodium and whole grains. There is also a useful comparison chart here: Current Standards vs Proposed Standards, proposed timeline, and a media toolkit.

Kids at Recess

Guest Post: Time to Stop Playing with School Recess

Kimberly Clevenger

Kimberly Clevenger is an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Health Science at Utah State University, with a background in exercise physiology. Her research interests are in the promotion and measurement of physical activity, particularly in children. 

For many, the mention of school recess brings back fond memories like being outside, hanging upside down, or making up new games with friends. These unstructured breaks are an opportunity for children to socialize, practice skills like conflict resolution, be creative, learn and apply learning, be physically active, and participate in spontaneous and free-play. Recess also serves as a much-needed break from academic pressures, the expectations of adults, and the structured and sedentary nature of the school day. It is the unstructured and autonomous nature of recess that sets it apart from other parts of the school day and makes it uniquely beneficial to children’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

In line with recent research, we recommend that all children, kindergarten through 12th grade, be provided at least 30 minutes of daily recess. Children in the United States are scheduled to have about 25 minutes of recess per day, an estimate that has declined over time, and falls short compared to other countries. Because it is often not required, recess time can too easily be reduced when something else comes up like testing or an assembly. This amount of recess is also disturbingly similar to the typical two, 15-minute breaks allotted to working adults. In line with the adage ‘play is the work of childhood,’ recess should be recognized as an essential part of the school day. However, providing high-quality recess is just as important as providing enough recess time. Overcrowding, limited options or equipment for all children regardless of weather, negative exposures like traffic noise, and lack of training for recess supervisors can lead to boredom, injuries, bullying, and other antisocial behaviors. 

While our goal should be to provide sufficient quality recess to all children, youth in middle or high school are often left out of conversations about recess, yet they stand to gain the most from the physical and psychological benefits of recess. Similarly, Black children and those at/below the poverty line get 10 fewer minutes of recess per day than their White or more affluent counterparts. These same children may have less opportunity for free-play outside of school. As stated by Olga Jarrett from Georgia State University, “since children who usually have recess consider it punishment when recess is withdrawn, one could consider that whole segments of the population are being punished daily.” 

We call on parents, educators, and community members to work together to promote positive change in the quality and quantity of recess provided to the children in their communities. However, change can also be made at the state or national level. Currently, no national policy requires schools to provide recess, and Utah is one of 29 states without a codified law in place recommending or requiring recess for school children. Recognizing the unique contributions of recess and ensuring all children have equitable access to these benefits can promote the long-term health and well-being of the children of Utah.