JSNA for dummies: what is it and why should I know about it?

The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, a mouthful no doubt so don’t expect to see that again, let's call it the JSNA.

What is it exactly?

You’ve probably seen it referenced in a few places or heard colleagues discussing it, perhaps alongside a phrase like “understanding need”.

Well, it’s a way of understanding what our Essex population looks like, how many people live where, what the health conditions are, what services they use, and where they are.

But above all else, the JSNA looks at what factors influence the health outcomes, often called the wider determinants of health. These are a diverse range of social, economic and environmental factors which influence people’s mental and physical health. Variation in these factors creates social inequality, an important driver of the health inequalities and health outcomes.

The JSNA is key in knowing where alignment or variation lies, which enables the system to better understand what specific population needs are driving their health economies and where there is opportunity.

What’s in it?

The JSNA is never a single source of data, it’s a network of many different datasets, weaved together to tell a story.


Alongside the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy, it’s a statutory duty for all health and wellbeing boards. It’s created to assess the health and social care needs of our population to help improve the physical and mental wellbeing of Essex residents and communities.

Why aren’t they all the same?

All JSNAs will look different because there is no set way of creating them. There are no mandatory templates or datasets that must be used. Some will be a single document report and others may be in the form of an online dashboard. For most cases, its better to think of the JSNA as a suite of products and reports, rather than single report.

What’s the plan for the Essex JSNA?

We’ve done away with the single big report for Essex. For the 2019 JSNA, the Health & Wellbeing Board, through the Essex Strategic Coordination Group (ESCG) and Essex County Council are using a ‘place-based’ approach for the suite of JSNA products, which will look at issues and needs at smaller local geographies.

These geographies will serve as building blocks to satisfy the need for intelligence at local authority and NHS geographical areas.

The Countywide Report and Local Authority Portraits will be replaced with a suite of products including:

  • Primary Care Networks/Neighbourhood Profiles
  • District/Borough Council Profiles
  • A Countywide Summary Report
  • Specialist Topic Deep Dive Reports

Where can I find the JSNA and all these reports?

The new Essex Open Data platform will host all our JSNA products from now on. As new reports near completion in July, be sure to keep an eye out on the JSNA page which can be found here:

If you have any question regarding the JSNA or population health, then please get in touch with

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