Healthy Life

Why Naples is the Happiest and Healthiest City in the Nation

BY June 20, 2016


Naples recently received top honors when it was distinguished as having the highest overall well-being in the U.S., according to the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The report measures how residents in 190 U.S. cities feel about their physical health, social ties, financial security, community and sense of purpose.

“We all should be proud to live in a community that is designated the healthiest and happiest place to live in the nation; that’s great news,” says Deb Millsap, executive director, Blue Zones Project – SWFL. “However, this survey also provides us with feedback on areas where we can improve."

She is referring to some of the weaker outcomes, such as the area’s lifetime cancer prevalence, lack of health insurance (Florida remains among 20 states that have not yet taken federal Medicaid expansion), high cholesterol, alcohol consumption, heart attack risk, health care insecurity and access to dentistry.

The good news is that Naples’ residents have the lowest levels of stress in the country, report little depression and eat healthy on a daily basis, the report found. Many of them like their daily activities and enjoy an intellectually lively culture, telling interviewers they learn or do something interesting every day.

The 2016 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report, published in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, gave Naples once again high marks for healthy living.

The rankings allow each state to see how its counties compare on 30 factors that impact health, including education, transportation, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet and exercise.

Collier County ranked No. 2 and Lee County ranked 16th overall in Health Outcomes of the 67 Florida counties included in the report. In regards to Health Factors, Naples was No. 5 statewide, whereas Fort Myers came in at No. 22. (To review the rankings breakdown, visit

Collier County residents are statistically healthier and less likely to die early than their Lee County neighbors, thanks in large part to lower rates of smoking and obesity, the report shows. Adult smokers numbered 16 percent in Lee compared to 14 percent in Collier. Twenty-six percent of Lee residents were obese versus 19 percent of Collier residents—a condition that can lead to many diseases.

Collier citizens are physically more active even though they have less access to exercise opportunities than their Lee counterparts.

The report ranks communities by considering not only health behaviors, but also the economy and access to health care. Wealthier areas tend to perform better, something that may explain the differences seen between neighboring Lee and Collier counties.

System Health and Wellness Strategic Business Partner for Lee Memorial Healthcare System Christin Collins says, “When people struggle financially, they tend to eat less healthy and are more likely to abuse alcohol and tobacco.”

The Healthy Lee movement, started nine years ago, was created to empower and inspire the people of Lee County regarding healthy lifestyle choices through education and action.

“The initiative reflects Lee County’s comprehensive sustainability strategy,” Collins explains, “promoting the integration of healthy lifestyle choices into the daily routines and the built environment—supporting the message of transformation based on free choice.”

And the choices are many. Healthy Lee collaborates in a diversity of programs to encourage Lee County residents to pursue a culture of healthy lifestyles. This includes access to nutritional information, physical activity and exercise, stress management, routine medical exams/checkups and information on prevention of risk factors for disease.

Healthy Lee also supports accessible community programs for health literacy, population management and champions policy changes to support a healthy and safe environment. There are programs to create a Tobacco-Free Lee; for prenatal medical care to have more healthy babies; an outreach program to prevent teen pregnancy; medical assistance for the low-income and uninsured; chronic disease management; behavior health; The 5-2-1-0 Plan for a healthier, active lifestyle (see below); and more.

Other report highlights:

• Lee county residents have more access to exercise opportunities (94 percent) compared to Collier (91 percent); however, just 18 percent of Collier’s residents were inactive versus 24 percent of Lee’s residents.

• There is a higher rate of uninsured residents (30 percent) in Collier than in Lee (27 percent).

• Socioeconomic factors indicated that Collier County residents have a higher percentage of high school graduates (81 percent vs. 74 percent) but a lower rate of those with some college (5.0 percent vs. 5.9 percent). More people were unemployed in Lee (6.0 percent) versus Collier (5.9 percent), and there were more children in single-parent households in Lee (41 percent vs. 35 percent) as well. They tied at 26 percent with children living in poverty. 


What is the 5-2-1-0 Plan?

If you haven’t seen this message yet, you will—as this campaign to help fight childhood obesity is spreading throughout Lee, Hendry and Glades counties through pediatricians, schools, child care centers and many other organizations under the Healthy Lee (formerly Fit Friendly) community umbrella.

Eat at least five fruits and vegetables per day.

Limit screen time to two hours per day.

Get one hour or more of physical activity each day.

Drink zero sugar-sweetened drinks. Try water and low-fat milk instead.


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