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New report shows Collier County slightly healthier than Lee


A new report shows that Collier County residents are less likely to die early compared with their Lee County neighbors.

No, there’s nothing in the water.

This is largely due to drastically lower rates of obesity and smoking, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

What the rankings said

Collier County

In fact, the annual County Health Rankings from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said that Naples was No. 2 statewide in health outcomes and No. 3 for health behaviors.

Lee County is 17th statewide when it comes to health behaviors, such as smoking and exercise, a solid gain over the previous years’ 22nd place ranking.

The report ranks communities by their health behaviors, as well as the economy and access to health care. Wealthier areas tend to perform better, something that may explain the sharp differences, according to the News-Press, between Lee and neighboring Collier.

“That mirrors what you see nationally, where you can have two communities right next to each other and can see drastic difference in health outcomes,” said Roderick K. King, executive director of the Florida Public Health Institute. “What it does boil down to is socio-economic status.”

How they work

The rankings draw on several years’ worth of surveys and public reports, and are considered among the best ways to measure community health. They rely on data collected for eight years between 2005 and 2013.

The adult smoking rate in Lee County was 20 percent, compared to 15 percent in Collier. An estimated 26 percent of Lee County adults are also considered obese, a condition that can lead to a laundry list of diseases. The Collier rate is 21 percent.

Collier County

Public health officials in Lee said the county’s improving health behavior numbers are a good start and should improve as health awareness efforts gain more footing in Lee County.

It all boils down to

As for the difference between Lee and Collier, it’s not the water.

The local health department office pointed to the economy and the difference in wealth. Those struggling financially tend to have less access to routine health care, buy cheaper (and often less-healthy) food, and are more likely to abuse tobacco and alcohol, said spokeswoman Diane Holm.

Jim Nathan, president and CEO of Lee Memorial Health System, also made a similar point.

“We generally score well against other areas of Florida and nationally for clinical and medical interventions, but where Lee County falls behind is in our behavioral, lifestyle areas — physical activity, obesity, and smoking,” Nathan said in a written statement. “Poor health habits directly affect our health outcomes.”

It’s not a competition 

But the two counties don’t wish to be compared. The report is a helpful tool for the two counties to improve their living standards separately and simultaneously.

“We don’t compare ourselves to other counties. We use this data to see where we can improve,” Deb Millsap, spokeswoman for the Collier department, said. “It’s great to know where we’re excelling, but it’s more important to know where we can improve.”

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