The WKU Institute for Rural Health (IRH) in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) received a $50,000 grant from the Good Samaritan Foundation Inc., a ministry of the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. IRH Director, Dr. Matt Hunt, will serve as the project director for this grant of which he also authored.
The grant, Paying It Forward: Dental Care, Medical Care, and Health Promotion for Underserved Populations, is purposed to engage students in service learning, research, and clinical services. The IRH at WKU educates future health professionals and improves health in rural communities. Support from the grant will be used to purchase equipment and supplies for the IRH to ensure the continued positive impact of the community-based program.
The mission of the IRH is to steward a high quality of life for rural populations and underserved areas by engaging students and faculty in service learning and research, by providing clinical services, and by serving as a global resource for improving health in rural communities.
In the past 15 years, the IRH has provided a valuable educational experience for students in several of the CHHS majors, including Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Healthcare Administration, Social Work, Public Health, Kinesiology, and many more. Those students have logged an excess of 22,000 hours in patient care and education with approximately 58,000 patient encounters in the Commonwealth, and the IRH mobile units have traveled more than 100,000 estimated miles during this time.
The work of the IRH is not only important to the patients seen, but also to the students who are learning in the field. While the funding of this program is through the College of Health and Human Services, the IRH is very limited in its ability to provide services based on the Institute’s budget. Receiving external funding will allow for the continued success and expansion of services offered and number of patients seen in underserved areas. Providing care and health education to those in need is the cornerstone of the mission at the IRH.
Through innovative service delivery, the IRH strives to improve access to dental and healthcare. With the many preventative services the IRH offers on both the Mobile Dental Unit and the Mobile Health and Wellness Unit, they hope to provide essential education for preventative measures that can aide the patients in obtaining a healthier lifestyle.