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About IRH

Institute for Rural Health

The Institute for Rural Health (IRH) is housed within the College of Health and Human Services at Western Kentucky University. Known best for its two mobile health units, the IRH offers a variety of programs and services.

The Mobile Health and Wellness Unit, under the direction of Renea Watkins, RN, provides cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, and bone density screenings. It also provides health education in the areas of heart health, diabetes prevention and control, and hypertension. During flu season, the Mobile Health and Wellness Unit administers influenza vaccinations to local organizations and businesses including the Warren County Schools through the, “Immunize You Staff,” program.

The Mobile Dental Unit, under the direction Daniel Carter, DMD, and Bonny Petty, RDH, provides a variety of dental services including the Dental Sealant Program, a service offered to 2nd and 7th grade students in our service area; the fluoride varnish program offered to Head Start Programs in and around Warren County; and the Adult Dental Care Program offered to various communities in the 27-county regional service area.

In addition to providing health and dental care, the staff at IRH work daily on research projects, community outreach projects, and grant opportunities. The IRH is also in constant collaboration with several departments on campus and within the College including: Public Health, Allied Health, and Nursing. Through these collaborations, the IRH educates and trains health profession students. All of the staff at the Institute for Rural Health are dedicated to providing quality healthcare and health education across the state.


The Mobile Unit’s History

The first Mobile Unit was acquired in 2001 from funding attained through a federal Health Research and Services Administration (HRSA) grant. This unit served a dual purpose and housed both the Health and Wellness Services and the Dental Health Services.

Upon arrival at WKU, the Mobile Unit looked like this:

Original Unit


The Unit got a makeover and was renovated to provide more dental services.

mobile dental unit


In 2008, through a generous donation by Anthem, the IRH purchased a second unit for health and wellness programs.

mobile health unit





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 Last Modified 4/22/21