Community Health Stars
The annual Community Stars publication honors rural people, providers, advocates, and communities across the country. The stories document just a few shining examples of service and dedication to the people who call rural America home. Community Stars were nominated by a member of their State's Office of Rural Health (SORH), a community member, or a peer. Community Stars is a publication of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH). View the current Community Stars publication.
Kansas Community Star - Jody Hoener
Jody Hoener is president and CEO of the Healthy Bourbon County Action Team, Inc. in Fort Scott, Kansas. Jody has impacted the lives of many throughout Burbon County, Kansas, through her dedication, passion, strategic planning and grant writing skills, and deep commitment to addressing the community’s health disparities.
Jody works with her community’s low-income, vulnerable, and disadvantaged population as a licensed social worker and has done so for over a decade. In a previous position working for the State of Kansas, she investigated child abuse and neglect and worked with families who suffered from generational poverty, systematic disadvantages, and structural inequities. In addition, Jody led a grassroots organization that was instrumental in gaining funding to start Fort Scott’s first community garden.
At another point in her career while working as a clinic manager at Mercy Health Systems, Jody led the first comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) for Bourbon County.
Because of the CHNA and CHIP and the ability to address poor health outcomes, The Healthy Bourbon County Action Team Inc. (HBCAT) flourished. Though HBCAT has encountered and endured many challenges along the way, including losing its fiscal agent and hospital in 2018, they adapted and pushed on. Jody and her fellow HBCAT board members were resilient even as funding was lost again when the County reorganized in 2021. We are thankful for Jody’s pursuit for health, even when circumstances are unpleasant and undesirable.
Alli Utley, who is a student at Allen County Community College, nominated Jody Hoener. Alli states, “Jody has been a rural health and economic development leader throughout the state of Kansas for well over a decade. In a male-dominated workspace in the deeply traditional roots of the prairie, Jody has defined herself as a go-getter who isn’t afraid to speak up about the injustices that come before her. As a young woman who has also found her calling in public service, Jody has been the ideal role model for me as I look to find my own voice and passion in a field that has been honed by Jody for several years.”