A Healthier U


Generally, Utahns are a happy bunch of folks. It’s not uncommon to find a Utah city ranked on national polls measuring happiness and healthy living among local communities. But Utah also holds the dubious honor of ranking seventh in cases of opioid drug overdose. That’s why doctors like Melissa Cheng, MD, MOH, MSPH, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Utah School of Medicine, are determined to do something about it.

While the root of the high incidence of opioid overdose cases in Utah remains inconclusive, it is safe to assume that the cavalier culture surrounding prescription medication use (and misuse) is a big factor. “Patients count on prescription medications to be a regular part of their treatment, and for many years, doctors didn’t hesitate to prescribe them,” Cheng said. Today, local leaders recognize the need for change in how our communities battle drug abuse. And it starts with initiating measures geared toward educating the public about personal responsibility and adjusting expectations about their health care provider, followed by training health care providers to better identify and address signs of addiction.

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How do genetic conditions and predispositions affect health?

Having a family history of a disease is just an indicator that you may have inherited a genetic variant that might increase your risk. It is important to note two main points. First, not all relatives will inherit a genetic variant that is in their family. Second, not all people who inherit a genetic variant are absolutely going to have the associated disease. Knowing you might be at increased risk can help you make better health decisions that might allow you to avoid the disease or get it diagnosed early enough that some bad outcomes can be avoided.

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For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.