October 23, 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Let me ask you a few “What if?” questions.

  • What if ours was the healthiest region in the nation within the next decade?
  • What if we no longer experienced severe cyclical economic downturns during the next decade?
  • What if we outgrew our dependence on tourism, retirees, building, agriculture and healthcare and helped everyone in southwest Florida lead longer, happier, and healthier lives?
  • What if our region changed its culture much like NCH has changed its over these past 14 years?

Southwest Florida has experienced monumental change, including the building of the Tamiami Trail, completion of Highway I-75, regionalizing air travel at the Southwest International Airport, growth of higher educational institutions including Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State College, and Hodges University.

Now is the time to change the way we think, especially about the health and wellness of our citizens. And the answer to all these “What ifs” is the Blue Zones Project® that has come to Collier County at the invitation of the NCH Healthcare System and other community leaders. We have brought the Blue Zones Project to southwest Florida to make our region an even healthier, happier and vibrant place to live over the next decade.

On October 24, a Collier County Leader Summit will be held at NCH Healthcare to formally announce the partnership between Blue Zones Project and NCH Healthcare. Now what, exactly, is the Blue Zones Project?

Blue Zones Project is a community-wide, well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier. It encourages sustainable changes in our built environment and social networks, often suggesting policy changes involving worksites, schools, restaurants, grocery stores and neighborhoods. By helping people live longer and better through behavior change, communities can lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and enjoy a higher quality of life as they live, work, learn, worship and grow. The program is based on principles identified during an eight-year worldwide longevity study commissioned by National Geographic and detailed in the New York Times best-seller The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, by Dan Buettner. Basically, Buettner identified areas where people live measurably longer and in good health. They share common characteristics of longevity, and the secret lies not in diets or exercise but in creating the right surroundings and supporting social networks.

Over the next several months, you will be hearing a lot more about our Blue Zones Project and our concerted community effort to enhance the wellness and well-being of our citizens. Well-being is a measure of a person’s overall physical, social, and emotional health. A higher level of well-being leads to lower healthcare costs, higher productivity and increased economic vitality, and offers benefits for everybody.

Working together to make our region a Blue Zone will enable us to respond to those “What if” questions with the kind of affirmative answers that will help all of us live longer, happier, and healthier lives.


Allen S. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO

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