Ashton Chapman

Ashton Chapman
Location: Joplin, Missouri Cohort Start Year: 2018 Project Topics: Behavioral and Mental Health, Built Environment/Housing/Planning, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Elder Care, Health Care Access, Leadership Development, Public, Population and Community Health Populations Served: At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Children and Families, Low-Income Communities, Older Adults (65+), Rural Communities
Social Scientist
Social Grove

Ashton believes that science is only as effective as its ability to spur true social change. She cares deeply about how evidence is created, and she sees equity-driven research practices as key to disrupting the harmful power dynamics that often exist between researchers, community organizations, funders, and policymakers. As a social scientist and qualitative methodologist, Ashton works directly with residents and quality-of-life providers in under-resourced communities to add their expert voices to conversations about their most pressing social and health challenges, and the resources needed to address them. Through her work, Ashton challenges research methods that produce half-truths, leverages the power of stories as science, and invests in community-rooted partnerships to bring social science research beyond laboratories and into the lived experience.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Launch the Rural Equity Alliance of Leaders in Missouri
My strategic initiative will support the launch of a Rural Equity Alliance of Leaders (REAL) in Missouri, where 40 percent of residents live in rural counties (double the national average). The long-term goals of REAL are to recruit, develop, and support a demographically and professionally diverse network committed to co-creating a Culture of Health in rural Missouri through an equity lens. REAL will support the transformation of Missouri rural health training and work from its current, virtually exclusive focus on downstream health influences (namely access to hospitals) to a collaborative, allied social change model focused on upstream health influences. REAL will partner with health-enhancing organizations across multiple sectors (e.g., government agencies, schools, nonprofits) to provide the community-rooted infrastructure needed to support a diverse group of rural leaders in growing and utilizing their strengths to create innovative solutions to Missouri’s most pressing challenges.

Ashton’s passion for translating science to practice can be traced back to her personal experiences growing up in a small, rural community where she learned firsthand the unique health-related inequities and hardships rural families face, as well as the strength and resourcefulness they bring to finding solutions. Noticing that their voices were often missing from programs and policies created for them (rather than with them), Ashton now uses her research training to draw attention to the power and importance of community voice and self-determination in research and evaluation processes. Trained in Human Environmental Sciences, with specific expertise in qualitative methodology, family systems, rural health, and gerontology, Ashton’s work acknowledges and honors the intersecting intrapersonal, interpersonal, and systemic forces that shape opportunities for folks to live their happiest, healthiest lives.

Click here to watch Ashton’s Legacy Project video.