MANSFIELD — A county-wide COVID-19 public health assessment failed to garner enough responses to provide a holistic view of Richland County’s Black and Brown community.
Richland Public Health (RPH) conducted a COVID-19 needs assessment of the Black and Brown Community in April 2021 to identify the needs and concerns of racial and ethnic minorities living in Richland County.
An executive summary of the survey results states that with 16,112 Black or Brown residents in Richland County, RPH needed to collect at least 376 assessments for the results to be considered generalizable. RPH collected a total of 160 assessments April 12 and April 30, but only 123 met participation criteria.
In order to be used for the needs assessment, the respondent needed to be 18 years or older, live in Richland County and identify as a Black or Brown community member.
“I think it is clear where there’s work to be done in this community, like when I look at the response rates,” said Deanna West-Torrence of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative. “The fact that we had so few responses is concerning.”
Despite the low response rate, West-Torrence called the survey a step in the right direction.
“I think it's a great indicator of the disconnect that there has been and I commend (Dr. Julie Chaya, director of health education/promotion) for even doing this, for reaching out to the Black and Brown community in this way,” she said.
“I think that the health department and providers being aware of some of the perspectives of the Black and Brown community will be good. They can address those in future outreach efforts.”
Javar Jackson, chief operations officer at Third Street Family Health Services, said he wasn’t alarmed by the low response rate.
“It's kind of expected for a survey not to meet its target, but it does make you want to inquire of what went well, what went bad and then what do we need to do to pivot in order to get more outcomes,” he said.
“I think it was a step toward getting an answer and shows that the health department does want to address determinants of health, both specific to COVID and then others," Jackson said.
The survey was conducted in light of national data showing COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are higher among Black, Hispanic, Latino and Native Americans are more likely than their white counterparts.
“It was very important for us to ask minorities in our own community what they were experiencing,” explained Chaya. “National data is helpful, but our local needs must drive our community efforts.”
Chaya said the assessment was designed to gather information that could guide Richland Public Health’s work moving forward, especially in terms of building county-wide vaccine confidence.
Gauging the public's needs not only allows RPH to better focus its work, it also makes the health department more competitive in seeking grants for specific community needs.
"If we would like grants funds to address community needs in the future, we need higher participation rates in activities such as needs assessments, focus groups, programs, etc," Chaya said.
The assessment was conducted in partnership with the Black and Brown Coalition, Community Action Partnership, Destination Mansfield Richland County, The Friendly House, Maddox Memorial Church of God in Christ, the Richland County Foundation, Mansfield Richland County Public Library, Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, Minority Health and Wellness Project, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC), OhioHealth, Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, Richland COVID Vaccination Initiative, Third Street Family Health Services, the YMCA and WeAct.
Richland Public Health and the Richland County Foundation spent $3,000 to advertise the needs assessment over the course of nearly three weeks in an effort to get responses.
Advertising techniques ranged from social media to radio to print media. Posters, fliers and paper copies of the assessment were handed out at churches, community centers, events, food pantries and barbershops. There were also prize drawings for those who completed the survey.
Pastor Aaron Williams of Maddox Memorial Church of God in Christ encouraged people to take the survey by making paper copies and telling others how to take the survey online.
“Although past experience may have left a measure of distrust and disenfranchisement, there are yet people and agencies willing to help,” Williams said while advocating for the survey. “We can help by telling them where we need the resources directed.”
Williams attributed the low response rate to a longstanding lack of trust between the medical community and Black and Brown residents.
“If there are people who are trying to help and they need information in order to do that, then we should do our best to try to help by providing that information,” he said.
“Our issue has been historically, people say they are going to do something and then they don't do it. When people don’t necessarily believe that they're going to have the resources promised to them, there’s the problem," Williams said.
Rebuilding that trust will take time. Williams cited the lack of regular medical care facilities and COVID-19 vaccination clinics in the North End as an obstacle.
“The disproportion of services was beyond evident with regard to where the vaccine was distributed,” he said. “Besides my church, which resides on the far northwest of the North End west of Trimble Road, and the Friendly House, to my knowledge, there has been no vaccination clinic on the North End side of town.”
Richland Public Health vaccinated about 100 people at a vaccine drive-thru clinic at Maddox Memorial on May 20, Chaya said.
Chaya said the health department will be hosting a vaccine clinic and health fair on July 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at New Beginning Full Gospel Baptist Church.
Located at 91 Marion Avenue, the church falls right on the southern boundary line of the North End (as defined here by NECIC).
Williams believes building that trust will require health care providers and public health officials being more present in the communities they wish to serve.
“Being a face for the people, shaking hands or showing yourself in public in some way or form -- that grassroots thing goes a long way,” he said.
A year of social distancing and virtual communication hasn’t helped outreach efforts.
“When we communicate, we have a hard time hearing the inflection in people’s voices. We don’t see the expression on people’s faces,” he said.
Williams suggested a community forum where Black and Brown residents could express their concerns may be helpful.
Richland Public Health will be following up on the assessment with focus groups. These focus groups will discuss the survey results and the development of programs, resources and initiatives for Richland County’s Black and Brown community moving forward.
Community members interested in participating in a focus group can contact Jill Hartson at 419-774-3542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What did the needs assessment find?
The majority of survey respondents (77.2 percent) identified as Black or African American. Seventy percent of respondents were women.
The survey asked respondents about their confidence in various institutions as well as their knowledge of the COVID-19 virus and vaccine.
The survey found that only 61 percent of respondents were confident in the local medical community, but a greater percentage (72.4 percent) expressed confidence in their primary care provider.
At the time the survey was conducted, 35 percent of the respondents had gotten the vaccine. An additional 34.1 percent said they would not get the vaccine; 22.8 percent said they were unsure.
Other key findings included:
79.7 percent said they were confident with their knowledge of the virus.
67.5 percent said they were confident with their knowledge of the vaccine.
43.1 percent said they were not confident in their local government; 38.2 percent said they were; 15.4 percent said were not confident or unconfident.
52 percent said they were confident in the COVID-19 scientific community; 26 percent said they were unconfident.
51.2 percent said they were confident in Richland Public Health; 21.1 percent said they were unconfident.
36.5 percent said they were unconfident in the local economy, compared to 29.3 percent of confident respondents and 31.7 percent who were neither.
Almost 70 percent of respondents said free transportation service to and from vaccination appointments would not make the vaccine more accessible to them or those they cared about; 23.6 percent said it would.
The survey found that the most frequented sources of information about COVID-19 vaccines across all age groups were the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ohio Department of Health and Richland Public Health. Social media was a primary source of information for those ages 18-44.
This challenged prior assumptions by public health officials.
“Prior to the assessment, the assumption was social media and leaders in the faith community largely influenced vaccination decisions,” the report stated. “However, amongst all age groups represented in this assessment, the national, state and local public health resources were the most frequented. This could be attributed to the higher education level of respondents.”
To read the full Richland County Black and Brown Community COVID-19 Needs Assessment Executive Summary, visit www.richlandhealth.org/richlandbb.