"Quality of Life—What Makes Naples So Special" by Allen Weiss, MD, MBA, President & CEO

Quality of Life—What Makes Naples So Special

December 1st, 2012 - “Advance health, safety and housing initiatives which sustain Collier County’s quality of life, create quality places, and maintain an attractive standard of living for families and workers.” That is the historical objective used by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce supporters.

The term quality of life applies to the general well-being of individuals and societies.

Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Quality of life encompasses far more than money. Typical indicators include not only wealth and employment, but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

We should consider these areas to see how we might continue to improve on our goals and identify programs to take our community to the next level.

WEALTH: Collier County has a dumbbell shaped net worth with many families near the coast and in exclusive communities enjoying unearned income and high net worth, while others deal with unemployment or underemployment. Over 50% of public school families partake in free or reduced lunches. The average American family's net worth dropped almost 40% between 2007 and 2010, according to a study released recently by the Federal Reserve. The stunning drop in median net worth—from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010—indicates that the recession wiped away 18 years of savings and investment by families.
  • Opportunity—Identify and encourage job creation, educate and train as many folks as possible for higher paying productive employment.
EMPLOYMENT: Collier County has depended on hospitality, tourism, real estate, and growth by retirement, which has continued the cycle of growth and recession.
  • Opportunity—Now is the time for new industries or growing existing industries—healthcare, education, and solar energy, to name a few.
BUILT ENVIRONMENT: We are fortunate to live in an extraordinarily comfortable environment in terms of climate, access to water, and existing structures. Our entire area is relatively young with hardy support services and infrastructure.
  • Opportunity—We cannot just depend on sunshine and a low state tax rate to grow our built environment. We need to address our unbecoming statewide reputation as a place where it is difficult to build new structures.
PHYSICAL HEALTH: Our County has been recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin as the healthiest of 67 counties in Florida in 2010 and 2011 and the 4th healthiest by a small margin in 2012. Overall, that’s excellent news. Now, a continuing project called “Sustaining Excellence,” with 100 community leaders and led by Dr. Joan Colfer, is addressing morbidity, mortality and drilling down to poor physical and mental health days, low birth weight, adult smoking, obesity, excessive drinking, motor vehicle crash death rate, sexually transmitted infections, teen birth rate, primary care availability, preventable hospital stays, health care screening, violent crime rate, air pollution-particulate matter days, access to healthy foods, access to recreational facilities, and much more. This is a competent, dedicated, and motivated team—but they can’t do it alone. They need our help.
  • Opportunity—Support the Sustaining Excellence team that already has the most comprehensive metrics and can share best practices.
MENTAL HEALTH: The Sustaining Excellence team also supports the “Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.” We have improved from 2010 to 2011, according to the University of Wisconsin data.
  • Opportunity—We can continue to improve. Growing existing facilities (such as David Lawrence), early identification/intervention for those in need, and fostering support groups along with avoidance of “pill mills” are all opportunities.
EDUCATION: The bedrock of any community is the public school system. Ours is doing well considering its many challenges. The large standard deviation among the widely diverse student bodies is not unexpected, but the strength of our country has been and will continue to be our inclusiveness, which begins with a strong public education available to all.
  • Opportunity—Improve early childhood development (pre-school and elementary school) and harness the power of the community including the talented retired pool of highly educated citizens.
RECREATION AND LEISURE TIME: Living in this Garden of Eden climate has so many advantages. We can exercise outdoors year round, and we have beautiful, safe, and abundant parks. Equally important are our cultural, spiritual, and social activities. We have many interest groups, support groups, and are recognized for our music, drama, and art centers. Our museums, too, have diversified and matured.
  • Opportunity—Encourage involvement by all. Probably a small percentage of citizens participate in most of the activities. Cooperative public relations among all the “players” will benefit the entire community.
SOCIAL BELONGING: Interconnectivity, feelings of mutual compatibility, selflessness, and altruism all come to mind as our community culture continues to emphasize helping others. We are known to be a welcoming place, which should attract other like-minded folks.
  • Opportunity—In a word, “communication,” whether word of mouth, print,, electronic or online. Marketing ourselves as a great place to live, work, retire, or have a service performed is a stimulus to positive growth.
We have opportunities few others have in our nation. But we need to share our attributes more broadly in an understandable and meaningful manner. Three suggestions for everyone to consider:
  • First, brand our community. One idea, “This is My Community,” would be a measure of public pride.
  • Second, focus on diversity. In order to recognize our strengths, to address our weaknesses, and to continuously improve.
  • Third, civic responsibility. We’re all in this together and must work for continuous improvement.
Ours is a wonderful community, with a quality of life that will continue to thrive, grow and prosper, just as long as each one of us continues to care.

Past Health Advice Articles

Dr. Allen Weiss is CEO & President of the NCH Healthcare System. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Geriatrics, and was in private practice in Naples, Florida from 1977 - 2000. Dr. Weiss is active in a variety of professional organizations and boards, and has been published in numerous medical journals, including the American Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.