This project was work undertaken by the Central Coast Health Alliance: The Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN, Central Coast LHD, with the Central Coast Research Institute for Integrated Care (CCRI)


The Central Coast is a region north of Sydney, Australia with a population of approximately 340,000. Health and public services in the region continue to move towards integrated planning and service delivery to avoid organisational silos, disjointed or duplicative service planning and delivery.  As part of this, The Central Coast Health Local Health District (CC LHD), Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN) and Central Coast Research Institute for Integrated Care (CCRI) partnered with Rebbeck and DCI Consulting Group to undertake a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA).  The aim of this multi-year project is to drive improvements in health and social care across the Central Coast through a collaborative approach to understanding the local needs in the region. 

Methods and engagement

Throughout the initial scoping phase, we conducted extensive consultations with the CC LHD, HNECC PHN, executive sponsors, clinicians, providers, and consumers. The purpose of these consultations was to ensure our understanding of needs from the literature was correct and comprehensive. This understanding informed the development of needs hypotheses used to structure our engagement during the data-gathering phase.  

In the data-gathering phase, quantitative measures were co-designed and sourced from primary care datasets, hospital admissions and ED presentations data, LHD community services, routine publicly available data such as Census, and the Australian Urban Observatory, This included demographics, social determinants and service availability. We concurrently conducted consultations with system partners, clinicians, and consumers to gain a deeper understanding of what was behind identified health needs. We partnered with the CC LHD planning team to deliver a community survey to understand community perceptions of need.  

Results and impact

This stage of the JSNA produced a data set of health issues, risk factors and social determinants that allows service commissioners on the Central Coast to have a localised understanding of these issues. We found that social and health needs differed between these populations demonstrating the value of exploring more nuanced needs using this approach. We also developed a big-picture view of demand across the health sector and summarised this information in an interactive dashboard facilitating access and use by health system planners.  

There is now a strengthened purpose between the Central Coast Council, CC LHD, and HNECC PHN in identifying local social and health needs and designing appropriate and beneficial services for residents. 

Learnings for an international audience

This project demonstrates that valuable insights across health and other policy domains, including social determinants, can be gathered through collaborative research. This collaborative approach to understanding the needs of a population facilitates more targeted service delivery and place-based models of care relevant to local populations.    

Next steps

The next step for this work is to secure funding for the prioritisation of the needs identified across the local regions. Prioritisation will allow for the creation of healthcare neighborhoods to further support place-based service design and delivery of services where they are needed most.