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Report reveals impact of pandemic on local community’s well-being, along with health and social service priorities

A new report is shedding light on the most pressing health and social services needs of residents in Haldimand and Norfolk counties. 

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health and Social Services (HNHSS) division shared the findings of the 2022 Community Needs Assessment at the May 2 Board of Health meeting.  

Challenges identified by participants cover a range of struggles from increasing challenges in regard to affordable housing and food, and feelings of stigmatization or isolation in the community. Difficulty accessing primary health care providers and dealing with barriers to service, such as transportation challenges, were also frequently cited responses.  

More than 1,500 Haldimand and Norfolk community members contributed to the assessment by sharing their input and experiences by way of surveys, interviews, and focus groups. The HNHSS division will use this data to design and deliver programs to impact these issues. 

“This new data helps our division, and our community partners, to pinpoint the most prevalent concerns of people in Haldimand and Norfolk,” said Director, Public Health, Syed Shah. “We recognize some of the issues identified may require action or interventions on a larger, provincial or federal, scale to see a quick, substantial impact, but HNHSS will work diligently and strategically with our local partners to achieve meaningful improvements in the health and well-being of our community,” added Stephanie Rice, Director, Social Services and Housing.  

A similar Community Needs Assessment was conducted in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Comparing the data allows decision-makers to better understand the impact the pandemic had on the community’s physical, mental, and social health and well-being. 

When asked how their overall health had changed over the pandemic, 36 per cent of participants reported their health worsened, while 10.6 per cent reported their health improved. There was also a significant decrease in the proportion of participants who reported seeing their doctor, dentist, or optometrist annually, compared to 2019. 

Although there were changes in health status and behaviours over the past few years, the main priorities highlighted in the 2019 assessment remain consistent with the issues identified in 2022.  

“Given HNHSS’ need to quickly pivot priorities in 2020 to emergency management, limited progress was made on addressing these concerns in the past three years. As a result, the priorities identified in this new report are not surprising to those working in the community,” noted Board of Health Chair, Amy Martin. “We know there were several health and social services challenges faced by our community in 2019. In many instances, the pandemic has worsened those challenges, especially for some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community.” 

The detailed findings of the report will be used in the HNHSS’ strategic planning process, which will influence or determine programming decisions over the next five years. 

The full report of the 2022 Community Needs Assessment is available online at