If Salt Lake County's young men continue killing themselves at the rate they did the first part of this year, 1995 will go down as the worst in history for suicides, says the county's top health official.

"We've taken the first six or eight months (of suicide statistics) and extrapolated it to the end of the year," said Dr. Thomas Schlenker, executive director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department.He was interviewed by the Deseret News following a meeting in which he described the state of the country's health to about 70 mayors, members of city councils and experts from state and local governments.

"If the rate that we extrapolated . . . continues, it will be by far the worst year we've ever had."

According to the department, Utah's suicide rate is the sixth highest in the United States and 40 percent higher than the national average. It is the chief single cause of death for young men 15 to 19. Males are at much higher risk of actually succeeding in suicide because they tend to use more lethal methods, but girls and women are more likely to attempt suicide.

Schlenker said suicides are just one factor among several that pose special concern over preventable deaths. Others are motor vehicle accidents, and breast and cervical cancer.

Other causes of worry are the fact that 15 percent of pregnant women don't get prenatal care early in their pregnancy, and that about half of the county's two-year-old children are behind on their immunizations, he said.

In an effort to help local officials target areas where children aren't getting the shots they need, the department has drawn a map keyed to specific neighborhoods. The map shows how well residents of particular areas have succeeded in getting shots for their children.

"We have a map of the entire county depicting rates of immunization," Schlenker said.

Officials of Midvale, recognizing they had a problem, approached the department for help on childhood immunizations. The department is cooperating with Midvale on it, he said.

Sandy chose immunization as one of its priority health needs, and the city has been able to use the map to spot exactly where it has its lower rates.

"We see that as a real advantage," Schlenker added.