The Villages joins with USF Health to create America's healthiest hometown

Partnership will create national model for health in retirement

The Villages, FL (March 29, 2011) — The University of South Florida and The Villages, in partnership with The Villages Health System, have begun a study of the key components of health in retirement.

“Nothing is more important to a senior than his or her health,” said Gary Morse, developer of The Villages. “We’ve been searching for a creative, forward-thinking university partner to work with local health care providers, study our community and bring us innovative ideas that will enhance the health enjoyed by retirees. We want to create America’s healthiest hometown.”

“Together, we have a bold goal, namely to use our public health, information technology and medical knowledge to help the residents of The Villages live longer and better,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and chief executive officer of USF Health. “We’ll listen, we’ll assess, and then we’ll implement a series of action steps to focus on the ways to make the biggest difference in their quality of life. Our relationship is much larger than a single study. We’re here for the long term to ensure that every resident has the chance for optimum health, as defined by him or her.”

USF Health’s action steps will include education, behavior change and personalized medicine. “We all envision the ideal health care of 2020,” Klasko said. “Now we need to make that happen, right here, right now. For example, imagine being able to design medical care that’s customized to an individual’s behavioral and molecular profile. Imagine every resident and physician connected electronically so that health information is available instantaneously.”

When informed of this initiative, Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said, “As America faces the baby boomers’ impending retirement, innovative collaborations between leading academic medical centers like USF Health and communities like The Villages are essential to developing new models of care and leading the changes that will improve our nation’s health.”

“The Villages offers a unique opportunity for such research and innovation,” Klasko said. “Here we have retirees from all over the nation and from all walks of life. Our strong belief is that what we will learn in The Villages will benefit not just Villagers, but future retirees all over the world. Together, with local health care providers already serving the community, we’re going to take a comprehensive approach to each person to enhance health and preserve wellness.”

“Our local physicians will benefit greatly from USF’s presence,” said Lee Huntley, CEO of The Villages Health System. “USF brings additional resources to the community that can only help our dedicated providers in the care they’re providing to our patients. This will be a great example of how academic physicians and private physicians can work together to identify and implement best practices on behalf of residents and our patients.”

These initiatives that enhance health in The Villages and for seniors in general, will be led by Dr. Les Miller, USF’s chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences; Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health; and Jessica Banko, chief operating officer of USF’s statewide Alzheimer’s Center. This first-ever study joining a major university with an entire community builds on more narrowly focused population-based studies of the past, like the Framingham Study, which established the basis for modern treatment of cardiac risk factors like hypertension. The Villages work will similarly begin with focus groups and a health study in order to begin building a baseline for understanding the optimum ways to improve and maintain senior health.

USF Health is dedicated to research, learning and health care across the full spectrum of health. USF Health is a partnership of the University of South Florida’s Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy, as well as the School of Physical Therapy, and the School of Biomedical Sciences. Located in the Tampa Bay region, USF is second in Florida and in the top 40 among public universities in federal research expenditures.

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Media contacts:
USF Health Public Affairs, Susanna Martinez Tarokh
(813) 974-2776, or

The Villages, Gary Lester
(352) 753-6706, or