Needs based planning and systems thinking in responding to complex service delivery needs in rural and remote communities

Ms Fiona Brooke1

1Sarrah, Deakin West  , Australia


Every rural and remote community is different with different needs, challenges and aspirations. As greater autonomy is directed to Primary Health Networks to address local needs, identifying and prioritising those needs at the community level is a critical step in supporting better health outcomes at the community level.

This presentation presents an approach to working with communities through a needs based planning framework to identify and prioritise local needs, identify culturally appropriate local resources and work with PHNs and other rural and remote service delivery providers and planners to map sustainable options for service delivery and empowering local communities to engage and participate.

Systems thinking is a logic framework that focuses on the relationships and connections between elements within the larger system. In a small community, understanding the relationships between community members and their existing health service providers is key to empowering that community to look at it’s specific needs and clearly enunciate those needs to PHNs and other service and policy planners.

Relationships are also central to developing culturally appropriate services that address identified priority needs, supporting community aspirations for better health outcomes. Health is not the only part of the system within each community. Unless health is framed within the broader community and identifies its broader socio-economic role, sustainability will continue to bedevil local service providers.

Developing a local workforce through including training and development options within the framework and supporting options for local training is equally important in building sustainable communities, and sustainable services.


Fiona Brooke is Director, Research and Evidence, for SARRAH. She has over 20 years experience working in government and the not for profit sector, including over 10 years working in rural and remote health and workforce policy.

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