Improving the Health of Communities Through Participation

The Project

Professor Jane Farmer

Community participation in health improvement.


The partnership between the La Trobe Rural Health School and three rural health services, Heathcote Health, Rochester & Elmore District Health Service and Rural Northwest Health, involves a three year research project to engage with local communities. The aim of this project is to support rural communities to design, develop and implement locally responsive and sustainable health services.

The process uses the innovative Remote Services Futures method that was developed in Scotland.  It is an evidence-based community participation method that engages local people in considering health data, identifying their priority health issues, and designing sustainable, locally responsive and fully costed services. It consists of a structured, themed workshop series and planning tool to facilitate discussion, capture community views on health planning, and evaluate evidence relevant to a health issue, culminating in a planning exercise.

Central to the project are the PhD students who will complete a PhD by publication that documents the community process, outcomes and outputs. The community based doctoral studies will use collaborative, participatory and innovative research methodologies including geospatial mapping, and will have clear outcomes for each community. Cross cutting research projects are being conducted simultaneously that focus on evaluation of community engagement processes from an international perspective, social inclusion perspective and the impact on health literacy.

The program provides the opportunity to explore some of the unanswered questions that relate to community involvement including:

  • What is the role of communities in the design and implementation of a regional health system?
  • What models of services do communities design when given a range of data, information and research evidence?
  • What models of community engagement and enablement are appropriate?
  • Can community engagement lead to changes in health literacy?

For more information please contact Assoc. Professor Amanda Kenny, Project Leader:

Academic Team

Related Links

Heathcote Health:

Rochester & Elmore District health Service:

Rural Northwest Health:

Heathcote Health Logo, REDHS logo, Rural Northwest Health Logo






The Communities

Heathcote Health

Heathcote Health

"Heathcote Health is committed to the development and implementation of an effective community engagement and participation program and this project will greatly assist us in understanding how best to partner with the Heathcote community to achieve positive health and wellbeing outcomes."

Dan Douglas, CEO Heathcote Health


Rochester and Elmore District Health Service

redhs front entrance

"This project provides a great opportunity for REDHS to build on connections with the communities we provide services to.  This research with La Trobe University will lead to short and long term outcomes and will provide a meaningful way for people in our catchment to have a greater say in the services REDHS provides."

Matt Sharp, CEO Rochester and Elmore District Health Service


Rural Northwest Health

 Warrack Building


"We believe that this research project will enable us to engage and talk to local community members about what health topics are important for them. Outcomes achieved will be a community that will have improved knowledge about the local health services and what they can do to develop their health."

Catherine Morley, CEO Rural Northwest Health

PhD students

Nerida Hyett

Nerida Hyett

The focus of Nerida’s research is to investigate international examples and case studies of community participation in health, using comparison and analysis to determine best-practice for rural health services.




Elena Wilson

Elena Wilson

Elena has previously had roles in rural health, as a project manager and consumer liaison officer. Her current study explores improvement of the health of the Heathcote community through the process of participatory action research.  



Mary Magennis

Mary Magennis 

While Mary was a member of REDHS board of management she witnessed a major redevelopment of the health service.  Mary takes great pleasure in having the opportunity to work with the community in service planning.    



Diana Guzys

Diana Guzys 

Diana has a passion to better understand how to improve the health literacy of communities and how the health care system has developed, particularly for rural communities.



Emma Patten

Emma’s research is focusing on how those who are most vulnerable in our rural communities have their voice heard in issues affecting their wellbeing.    




John Aitken

John Aitken 

John has been a community pharmacist in the Wimmera- Mallee for the last 25 years and enjoys working in rural health. He hopes that this project gives rural people a bigger say in their health experience.    




Publications and Resources


Our publications

Kenny, A., Hyett, N., Sawtell,J., Dickson-Swift,V., Farmer,J., O’Meara,P. (2013) Community participation in rural health: a scoping review. BMC Health Services Research 13,64

Project Presentations

Assoc. Professor Amanda Kenny presented at the Taking the Pulse Conference held in Brisbane in April 2013. Read Amanda’s paper: Community participation and the social determinants of health

Online Resources

Community involvement, engagement, participation and co-production

Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Centre Dr B Israel

Family project – Hong Kong

"Community Toolbox"

  • The Community Toolbox 
  • Fawcett, S. B., Francisco, V. T., Schultz, J. A., Berkowitz, B., & al, e. (2000). The community tool box: A web-based resource for building healthier communities. Public Health Reports, 115(2), 274-278.

Food Secure Canada

Community based (driven) research methods

Rural health

University-community engagement