Current Leader

Jitana Benton-Lee

Jitana Benton-Lee
Location: Lexington, Kentucky Cohort Start Year: 2020 Project Topics: Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Health Care Access, Health Care Quality, Nurses and Nursing, Public, Population and Community Health Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), Adults (21-64 years), African-American/Black, At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Low-Income Communities, Older Adults (65+), Rural Communities
Assistant Professor
Northern Kentucky University

Kentucky ranks as one of the worst states in preventable hospitalizations, based on America’s health ratings. When you drill deeper into these unchallenged health disparities, studies indicate rural minorities lag even further. Thus, Jitana’s project focuses on improving health care perceptions and initiatives for rural minorities in Kentucky. Throughout the three-year program, she will develop inclusive health care promotions and practices to educate communities on their health risk factors that may lead to hospitalization for a preventable illness.

Social factors fundamentally influence health outcomes in every circumstance, whether local, national, or global. As an advocate for health care inclusivity, Jitana is connecting with nurse leaders and other health care providers in her state to systematically analyze how the social determinants of health (SDOH) are impacting health risk factors and subsequent health outcomes for rural minorities. She hopes to develop cross-sector collaborations with other professions and fields as she feels a transdisciplinary, systems-thinking approach is necessary to address her target population’s health equity issues.

Jitana believes establishing a Culture of Health in Kentucky depends on the development of health equity structures designed to ensure access to care, reduce health disparities, and enhance health care delivery systems to improve health outcomes for rural minorities. She can be quoted as saying, “A Culture of Health is affordable and value-based. A Culture of Health is individualized and promotes well-being. A Culture of Health is responsive and evidence-based. A Culture of Health is equitable, operating on best practices. A Culture of Health is health care reform in action.”


Jitana grew up in a small, rural Kentucky town where health disparities are significant. She witnessed loved ones succumb to chronic disease, amputations, even fatalities resulting from preventable illness. All of this, coupled with her own visual and hearing impairments, led her to opt for a health care career as a nurse, intending to make a difference in the health outcomes of her community. Jitana gleans knowledge on creating inclusive health care practices and environments, honed through her work with underrepresented patient populations, including rural African Americans, migrant farmworkers, Appalachian Americans, LGBTQ+ people, and the deaf and hearing-impaired community. She gives credence to the importance of human social relationships’ influence on population health and how everyone wants to feel valued and heard. Therefore, she participates in community-focused health research and advocacy. And as an interculturalist, she facilitates system-level training on provider intercultural development, health care diversity and inclusivity, and racial trauma.





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