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Background: The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District (WHBHD) is a regional health department serving the towns of West Hartford and Bloomfield in Connecticut. From February to April of 2020, elderly and Black residents accounted for 59% and 38% of COVID-19 related deaths, respectively. Since the district has not assessed community health needs previously and is interested in becoming accredited, a community needs assessment will serve as the first step in implementing effective and timely interventions to address needs, disparities, and misperceptions about the pandemic.

Methods: A comprehensive survey was adapted from existing NIH COVID-19 research instruments. 779 responses were collected on the topics of community health and COVID-19 knowledge, practices and perceptions. Five semi-structured key informant interviews were conducted with faith-based organizations and local government leaders to corroborate findings from the survey. Quantitative analyses were performed via SAS and R, and qualitative data was summarized.

Results: Demographic distributions significantly differed between West Hartford and Bloomfield in age, income, race, marital status and household size. While there were differences in community health problems, social/environmental problems, and health care barriers, both towns shared individual health problems and perceived certain populations as most underserved. Both towns have adequate COVID-19 knowledge regarding symptoms and transmissions, low perceived risk of infection, and positive attitude towards preventative actions and measures. There were significant differences in COVID-19 testing accessibility between towns (p = 0.002), with nearly double the proportion of West Hartford residents reporting difficulty accessing testing. COVID-19 vaccination status is also different between towns, with both reporting lack of available vaccines as the primary reason preventing or delaying vaccination.

Conclusions: The mixed methods approach to conducting this community needs assessment has provided consequential preliminary findings that will be useful in refining the health district’s current and future responses to COVID-19 and other public health issues.

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Community Health and Preventive Medicine

West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Community Needs Assessment: A Mixed Methods Study Identifying COVID-19 Knowledge, Perceptions, and Health Disparities