Utah’s healthy, highly productive citizenry enjoys access to world-class healthcare delivery and a dynamic, innovative life science sector.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Utah’s population has the sixth longest life expectancy in the nation, at 80.1 years. Utah has also ranked among the seven healthiest states for each of the last 20-plus years, based on statistics compiled by the United Health Foundation. The Beehive State ranked 7th in 2011, as it did the previous year. In all, Utah ranked among the top 10 states in 22 of the measures used by the Foundation in assessing a state’s overall health.
- Utah consistently ranks among the healthiest U.S. states.
- The average life expectancy for Utah’s population, 80.1 years, is tied for the nation’s sixth longest.
- The fast-growing Utah Health Exchange, launched in 2008 with the support of the Utah legislature, is an innovative consumer-centric health system.
- Two Utah hospitals— Primary Children’s Medical Center and the University of Utah Hospitals—have been recognized among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.
Cost-Effective Model Health-Care Systems
Utah is a national and global leader in healthcare innovation and in highquality, cost-effective healthcare delivery. Exceptional medical care is available throughout the state; 50-plus hospitals house more than 5,000 staffed beds. Citizens in the state’s densely-populated Wasatch Front region enjoy access to a wide array of major medical facilities, including 19 hospitals in Salt Lake County, four in Utah County, four in Davis County and two in Weber County. Utahns in rural Utah are served by systems such as St. Mark’s Hospital and Intermountain Healthcare, which have earned high praise for bringing quality healthcare to low-population-density areas throughout Utah.
Utahns also enjoy ready access to a number of national and regional health plan providers as well as employee group benefits providers that service employers of all sizes. Intermountain Healthcare is frequently used as a national model healthcare system. It repeatedly ranks among the top integrated U.S. healthcare systems, including 4th in 2011, by SDI, a major health information organization. SDI’s annual study of more than 500 U.S. health systems focuses on clinical quality, operations, and efficiency and breadth of services. The company’s findings are reported in Modern Healthcare magazine. Intermountain has ranked in the top five U.S. systems for 13 consecutive years.
Health Sciences Excellence in Education, Research and Care
The University of Utah Health Sciences programs include: University Hospital, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, the nationally ranked School of Medicine and the colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Health. Individually and collectively, the programs have achieved high national stature for their patient care, research and teaching facilities. In addition, St. Mark’s Hospital and other Utah healthcare providers have garnered national and global recognition.
The Veterans Administration (VA) Center for Genomic Medicine Patient Care Services, adjacent to the University of Utah campus, focuses on groundbreaking biomedical research, patient care, clinical translation, informatics, drug discovery/development, device design and ethics policy for the nation’s largest single health provider. The VA has developed the world’s largest biobank, and is actively pursuing novel approaches to prevent and treat illness for U.S. veterans and other Americans.
Hospitals at the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare were among only 140 hospital (among 4,825 facilities analyzed) to rank in the 2011-12 Best Hospital Rankings in one or more of 16 specialties by U.S. News & World Report. These Utah hospitals were ranked in the following categories:
University of Utah Health Care
- #50 in Ear, Nose and Throat
- #47 in Gynecology
Primary Children’s Medical Center (Intermountain Healthcare)
- #38 in Pediatrics: Cancer
- #31 in Pediatrics: Cardiology & Heart Surgery
- #32 in Pediatrics: Gastroenterology
- #49 in Pediatrics: Neonatology
- #35 in Pediatrics: Nephrology
- #6 in Pediatrics: Neurology & Neurosurgery
- #32 in Pediatrics: Orthopedics
Utah’s Impactful Health Exchange
Another national model for healthcare is the Utah Health Exchange, developed by the State Legislature and Governor’s office. The development of this program was driven by the state’s far-reaching commitment to the health and well-being of its citizens. The Utah Health Exchange serves as an innovative model and is one of the nation’s first statewide private sectordriven healthcare exchanges.
Beginning in 2005, Utah State government leaders began to lay the groundwork for a program designed to empower consumers—individuals, businesses and organizations alike—to take control of their own healthcare, with the information and resources they need to make effective healthcare decisions and to execute those choices.
The program was established through three pieces of legislation. House Bill 133 (2008) and House Bill 188 (2009) directed the State’s Office of Consumer Health Services to create an Internet portal to facilitate requirements specified in Utah’s Health System Reform legislation. House Bill 0294 (2010) augmented the program with enhanced transparency. As of January 2012, more than 250 small businesses employing 5,500- plus employees were involved in the exchange, with additional companies entering the system each month. Further information about the Utah Health Exchange can be found at www.exchange.utah.gov.
Utah’s Healthy Population
2011 State Rankings
- Cancer Deaths (deaths per 100,000 population): 137.4
- Prevalence of Smoking (percent of population): 9.8
- Income Disparity (Gini Ratio): 0.410
- Heart Attacks (percent of adult population): 2.8
- Prevalence of Binge Drinking (percent of population): 33.6
- Physical activity (percent of adult population): 82.1
- Preventable Hospitalizations (per 1,000 Medicare enrollees): 36
- Prevalence of Obesity (Percent of Population): 23.0
- Cardiac Disease rate (percent of adult population): 2.7
- Cardiovascular Deaths (deaths per 100,000 population): 215.2
- Diabetes (percent of adult population): 6.5
- High Blood Pressure (percent of adult population): 23
- Infant mortality (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.9
Other Top 10 Finishes:
Violent Crime (5th); Infectious Disease (6th); Overall (7th); Premature Death (7th); Children in Poverty (9th); Health Status (9th); Median Household Income (10th); Stroke (10th); and Low Birth Weight (10th).
Health Rankings by the United Health Foundation
Extending Utah’s Medical Devices and Biotech Legacy
The citizens of Utah, and the world, continue to benefit from the state’s leading position in life sciences research and commercialization. Utah’s research universities and entrepreneurial life science companies continue to build innovative products and services in areas ranging from medical devices to molecular diagnostics, specialty pharmaceuticals and targeted drug delivery systems.
Utah is a perennial medical device innovation leader, whose organizations continue to expand on the legacy established by global pioneers such as Willem Kolff, father of artificial organs; prolific medical device inventor James LeVoy Sorenson, who garnered 40 patents during his lifetime; and Homer Warner, co-creator with Sorenson of the first systems for real-time monitoring of the heart.
In biotechnology, innovations in molecular diagnostics, genetic research and databases, and other advanced technologies will continue to keep Utah in the forefront of this fast-changing industry. For example, to date, the University of Utah has identified more disease-related genes than any other university in the world and produced Nobel Prize winning research in the person of Mario Capecchi.
Cloud-Seeding Human Genetics: the Alta Meeting and Utah Population Database
In December 1984, stranded at first in a driving snowstorm, some of the world’s leading life scientific researchers met at the Alta Ski Resort in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. The meeting established many essential elements of what ultimately developed into the Human Genome Project.
For more than 30 years, generations of Utah families have contributed to epic DNA research projects through the Utah Population Database (UPDB). The unique lineage and demographic profiles of these families make this data a rich global enabler of advanced DNA research. The UPDB is the world’s largest and most comprehensive data source of its kind. Researchers have used this resource to identify and study families with higher-than-normal incidence of cancer and other diseases to analyze patterns of genetic inheritance and identify specific genetic mutations. In addition, demographic studies have shown fertility trends and changes in mortality patterns.
Utah’s large, stable families continue to produce a treasure trove of knowledge about human kinship. Utah DNA is being utilized for international studies designed to identify chromosomes linked to diseases such as asthma and diabetes. Other researchers are studying how the genes for left-handedness or longevity, or even the ability to taste bitter foods, have moved through the Utah gene pool over time. Utah’s nonprofit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is compiling a global genetic database that helps pinpoint where an individual’s ancestors came from, and reveal genetic connections with others across the planet. Utah’s Ancestry.com is a global leader in family history identity and exploration.
In 2007, University of Utah human genetics professor Mario R. Capecchi garnered the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on “knockout mouse” technology, a gene targeting technique that has offered fresh insights into mammalian biology and allowed the creation of animal models for hundreds of human diseases, including cancer.
For the past four years, Utah has hosted the National Summit on Personalized Health Care, launched in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Sessions have been led by such leaders as former HHS Secretary and Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt, legends Leroy Hood and Ralph Snyderman, and disruptive innovation originator Clayton Christensen. The Summit also launched the Roadmap for Personalized Health Care, created to accelerate the development and utilization of transformative technologies, business models, value networks and legislative and regulatory policies to create more effective, less expensive healthcare.
Accelerating Utah’s Life Science Sector: the State’s New Strategic Plan
In 2011, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) engaged Battelle’s Technology Partners Practice to develop a statewide strategic plan for Utah’s life science sector. With collaborative input from Utah life science leaders in higher education, industry and government, the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership for Life Sciences (LS UCAP) study identified core strengths, gaps and opportunities for Utah, together with a far-reaching, detailed execution plan to drive the growth and evolution of this fast-growing industry sector. The UCAP Life Science plan will enter the execution phase in Q2 2012.
The State’s life science sector receives guidance and direction from a broad array of strategic support organizations, including: the Utah Technology Council, the trade association for the state’s IT and life science companies (www.utahtechcouncil.org); the Utah Science Technology & Research Initiative (USTAR), which attracts and supports world-class research and commercialization teams to Utah’s research universities (www. innovationutah.com); the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), including the State Science Advisor, the Cluster Acceleration Partnership and other centers of support for the life sciences (www.business. utah.gov); the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, which partners with GOED to successfully recruit dynamic companies and divisions to Utah (www.edcutah.org); the influential Salt Lake Chamber, which focuses significant energy and resources on workforce development, education and other mission-critical projects (www.slchamber.com); the Intermountain Biomedical Association (IBA), which provides a broad array of education, training and networking experiences for individuals and companies in the Utah bioscience community (www.ibaut.org); and the MD4 Utah Institute (Medical Devices, Diagnostics and Drug Development), which supports the life science community through events, an active portal and newsletter, and strategic iniatives (www.md4utah.org).
For the foreseeable future and beyond, Utah will continue to play a leading role in key biotechnology and genetics-based breakthroughs that impact medical innovation and healthcare delivery worldwide.