Jodi Southerland

Jodi Southerland
Location: Rogersville, Tennessee Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topics: Community/Civic Engagement, Elder Care, Public, Population and Community Health, Rural Issues, Social Sector/Non-Profit Populations Served: At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Low-Income Communities, Older Adults (65+), Rural Communities
Assistant Professor
East Tennessee State University

Jodi’s vision is to bring together community champions who can develop systems of supports for rural older adults aging in place.

Jodi believes that healthy aging is not just about living longer but about living better. According to America’s Health Rankings, Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation for the social determinants of healthy aging. Rural contexts and geographic disparities pose additional challenges to living and growing older. Rural communities in Northeast Tennessee perform significantly worse on community indicators of healthy aging when compared to statewide averages. Coordinated efforts across multiple sectors are needed to address these challenges.

Jodi’s focus area is centered on the intersection of rural aging, the social determinants of health, and community-based advocacy and engagement efforts. Strengthening partnerships with local change agents, and co-creating asset-based approaches to addressing inequities, is central to transforming rural Northeast Tennessee into a better place to grow old. She seeks to create a world where older adults age well, where their voices are heard and valued, and where they thrive in their homes and communities. Jodi draws inspiration from Jesus’ call to aid the widow, orphan, and oppressed, seek justice and peace, and serve those in need.

Jodi is proudly born and raised in the mountains of central Appalachia in Northeast Tennessee. Whether as a community health researcher, teacher, farmer, or caregiver, Jodi is committed to advocating for and elevating the voices of rural communities. She has dedicated much of her life to raising awareness about the needs of older adults aging in place. As a caregiver to her grandparents, Jodi is acutely aware of the challenges rural older adults face. Caregiving has left an indelible mark on her way of being, character, and approach to life.


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