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How can we get the JSNA to talk our language?

Anyone who has “read” a JSNA (Joint Strategic Needs Assessment) will understand that sometimes it is speaking a different language. The JSNA looks at the current and future health and care needs of local populations, to inform and guide the planning and commissioning (buying) of health, well-being and social care services within a local authority area.

However, it is acknowledged that using different types of evidence from the voluntary and community sector (VCS) can support the development of a constructive JSNA on which to base sound strategy development and commissioning decisions. Even the smallest charities and community groups hold unique evidence about local community assets and people’s needs. These groups can also provide the key to engaging with marginalised and more disadvantaged groups such as BAME, Asylum Seekers, and Refugees.

To provide a bit of a background, the Middlesbrough Adults and Older Persons JSNA is broken down into three distinct themes which match the Mayors vision for Middlesbrough.

Fairer     – an assessment of the health needs of the population

Safer       – an assessment of the safety of the population

Stronger – an assessment of the lifestyle and living conditions of the population

It is my belief and others at MVDA’s that the VCS collects Community Intelligence and this is our language. However, as a NHS Confederation briefing once said “making better use of evidence from the voluntary and community sector to improve health outcomes is like comparing apples with oranges”.

I am not going to repeat my previous blog on why community intelligence makes for better commissioning, but will say small charities can provide rich information about the needs, concerns, aspirations and challenges within the local community. Potentially there is a wide range of different types of evidence held by these groups including –

  • Data and insight from experience
  • Advocating on behalf of a particular community interest and sharing understanding
  • Providing access to routes to engagement with particular groups

The following diagram highlights this -

There are numerous examples of what can be achieved and as an example the one below from London illustrates what impact this involvement with the local JSNA.

Case study: Co-production impact on smoking rates

Newham public health team wanted to know why a mosque-based smoking cessation service wasn’t working. They talked with the community and found that people didn’t want to work with outsiders. As a result, the team trained the community to deliver the services themselves, which resulted in a 50 per cent drop in smoking rates.

At MVDA we have been endeavouring to change this knowledge into actual useable information to help to inform the JSNA and commissioning decisions.   We still haven’t done it, but working with smaller charities and groups may be a way forward – particularly to engaging groups who are not readily engaged with.  

If you have found this blog useful or interesting, then get in touch and we can begin to get a better understanding of how we can get the JSNA to talk our language.

Craig Duerden


In February 2007 Craig joined the Planning & Partnership team with a focus on Health & Social Care.  He left MVDA in 2010 and re-joined us in August 2014 as Strategic Development Officer.  He is currently acting as the partnership manager for both the Middlesbrough Carers Partnership and Middlesbrough Mental Health Partnership as well as leading MVDA’s work around VCS intelligence and supporting the Health and Wellbeing VCS Forum.