Health Regions in Ontario – Boundaries and Correspondence with Census Geography

This issue describes in detail the health region limits as of December 2015 and their correspondence with the 2011 and 2006 Census geography. Health regions are defined by the provinces and represent administrative areas or regions of interest to health authorities. This product contains correspondence files (linking health regions to census geographic codes) and digital boundary files. User documentation provides an overview of health regions, sources, methods, limitations and product description (file format and layout).

This issue contains the health region limits as of December 2015 and their correspondence with 2011 Census geography.

The boundaries, health region codes and health region names in Ontario have not changed.

Appendices and tables


In recent years there has been an increasing demand for relevant health information at a ‘community’ level. As a result, health regions have become an important geographic unit by which health and health-related data are produced.

Health regions are legislated administrative areas defined by provincial ministries of health. These administrative areas represent geographic areas of responsibility for hospital boards or regional health authorities. Health regions, being provincial administrative areas, are subject to change.

The 2015 Health Regions: Boundaries and Correspondence with Census Geography reflects the boundaries as of December 2015 and provides the geographic linkage to 2011 and 2006 Censuses.


The generic term “health region” applies to a variety of administrative areas across Canada that are defined by provincial ministries of health. To complete the Canadian coverage, each northern territory is represented as health region.

The following table describes the health regions, by province, with reference to the provincial legislation under which these areas have been defined.

Health region code structure

A four digit numeric code is used to uniquely identify health regions. The first two digits represent the province, and the second two digits represent the health region. These codes reflect the same codes used by the provincial ministries of health. For those provinces where a numeric code is not applicable, a two-digit code was assigned. Ontario uses a 4-digit code for public health units. This code was truncated to the last two digits for consistency in the national health region code structure. Since Ontario has two sets of health regions, which do not entirely relate hierarchically, their codes are unique within the province.

The names of the health regions also represent the official names used by the provinces.

See Appendix 1 Health regions in Canada, 2015 (names and codes).

Correspondence files

Production of health region level data requires geographic coding tools. Since census geography does not recognize provincial health region boundaries, a health region-to-census geography correspondence file provides the linkage between health regions and their component census geographic units. These correspondence files use the smallest relevant census geographic unit.

To accommodate various data sources producing health region level data, linkage has been created for both 2011 and 2006 Census geographies. The layout of these correspondence files includes the seven-digit Standard geographic classification (SGC) code. The SGC code uniquely represents census subdivisions (CSD).

Most health regions comprise entire CSDs (see Table 2). However, there are some cases where health regions do not conform to municipalities. The 2006 Census linkage was created at the dissemination area (DA) level and block level for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario (LHINs). Even these smaller geographic areas (DA/blocks) sometimes straddle health region boundaries. In those cases, the entire DA (or block) was assigned, in conjunction with the affected province, to just one health region and therefore represents a ‘best fit’ with census geography.

Other data sources use postal codes to geographically reference data records. These data are first converted to census geographic units using the Statistics Canada postal code conversion file, and then linked to health regions based on the correspondence file.

The dissemination area/block-to-health region (DA/block-to-HR) correspondence files provided in this publication are available in CSV format.

Record layout

The record layout of the files is shown in the following tables.
Variable name Comments
DBUID2011 Uniquely identifies a dissemination block (composed of the 2-digit province or territory unique identifier followed by the 2-digit census division code, the 4-digit dissemination area code and the 2-digit dissemination block code)
CSDUID2011 Uniquely identifies a census subdivision (composed of 2-digit province or territory unique identifier followed by the 2-digit census division code and 3-digit census subdivision code)
HRUID2015 Uniquely identifies a health region (composed of 2-digit province or territory unique identifier followed by the 2-digit health region code)
HRNAME_ENGLISH Health region name, English
HRNAME_FRENCH Health region name, French
DBPOP2011 2011 Census dissemination block population

Health regions and standard geography

For the most part, health regions can be described as groupings of counties (census divisions) or municipalities (census subdivisions). This description holds especially true in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, and Ontario (with minor exceptions in northern Ontario). In the western provinces, health regions are less likely to follow census division or census subdivision boundaries.

The following table provides a count, by province, of census subdivisions that fall in more than one health region.

Table summary
This table displays the results of Census subdivisions linked to more than one health region. The information is grouped by Provinces with splits (appearing as row headers), 2006 Census subdivisions and 2011 Census subdivisions (appearing as column headers).
Provinces with splits 2006 Census subdivisions 2011 Census subdivisions
Nova Scotia – District Health Authorities 1 0
Ontario – Local Health Integration Networks 9 11
Ontario – Public Health Units 1 4
Manitoba 7 6
Saskatchewan 45 46
Alberta 9 6
British Columbia 6 20

Census subdivisions Health region codes Health region names Population % population split in census subdivisions
Ontario – Local Health Integration Network
3519028 3505 Central West 30,476 10.6
3508 Central 257,825 89.4
Subtotal 288,301 100
3520005 3505 Central West 130,193 5
3506 Mississauga Halton 109,344 4.2
3507 Toronto Central 1,149,993 44
3508 Central 631,372 24.1
3509 Central East 594,158 22.7
Subtotal 2,615,060 100
3521005 3505 Central West 39,123 5.5
3506 Mississauga Halton 674,320 94.5
Subtotal 713,443 100
3521024 3505 Central West 59,460 100
3508 Central 0 0
Subtotal 59,460 100
3528052 3502 South West 13,416 21.2
3504 Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant 49,759 78.8
Subtotal 63,175 100
3542004 3502 South West 11,487 93.5
3503 Waterloo Wellington 799 6.5
Subtotal 12,286 100
3542015 3502 South West 6,871 72.2
3512 North Simcoe Muskoka 2,649 27.8
Subtotal 9,520 100
3542045 3502 South West 3,866 59.9
3512 North Simcoe Muskoka 2,587 40.1
Subtotal 6,453 100
3543003 3508 Central 10,564 99.6
3512 North Simcoe Muskoka 39 0.4
Subtotal 10,603 100
3543021 3508 Central 1,063 5.7
3512 North Simcoe Muskoka 17,442 94.3
Subtotal 18,505 100
3560090 3513 North East 0 0
3514 North West 7,031 100
Subtotal 7,031 100

Boundary files

The health region boundaries provided in this product are based on 2011 Census geographic units. The smallest geographic unit available has been used as the building block to define health regions. In general, the legislated limits respect these units, but they do not respect DAs or blocks once the legislated boundaries are digitized. In all provinces except British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario (LHINs), the dissemination area was used to define health regions. However, in several instances, the actual physical legal limits split DAs. In the Prairie provinces and B.C. the dissemination block (DB) was used to improve the accuracy of these boundaries. Even with this, the physical legal boundaries do not always reflect the legislated limits recognized by the provinces thus creating many instances of split dissemination blocks.

The limits that did not respect STC geometry (the splits) were digitized by utilizing maps, spatial layers and/or descriptions supplied by and with the cooperation of the authority for each province.

Method used to create health region 2015 boundary files

All processes and procedures to update the digital boundary files were carried out using ESRI Inc.® ArcGIS TM 10.2.2, Safe Software Inc. FME ® Desktop 2015, Pitney Bowes Software Inc.® MapInfo 11.5.1, Microsoft ® Access 2007, and Microsoft ® Excel 2007.

Boundary file formats

All digital health region boundaries in this publication are available in two formats: An ESRI ® shapefile format and MapInfo® table format. We’ll be using the ESRI shapefile, which is supplied in a zip file. This file expands to provide four files of different extensions which are: (DBF, SHP, PRJ and SHX). Boundary files are provided as a national boundary file and are provided as individual provincial boundary files.

Projection information

The disseminated projection coordinate system of the health region boundary files is as follows:

  • Lambert Conformal Conic
  • Datum = NAD83
  • Units = meters
  • Spheroid = GRS 1980
  • Parameters:
    • 1st standard parallel: 49° 00′ 00″
    • 2nd standard parallel: 77° 00′ 00”
    • Central Meridian: -91° 52′ 00”
    • Latitude of Projection Origin: 63° 23′ 26.43”
    • False Easting: 6200000
    • False Northing: 3000000

“Health region” refers to administrative areas defined by the provincial ministries of health.

See Table 6 Health regions in Canada – by province and territory
See Map 14 Health Regions and Peer Groups in Canada, 2015

Health region boundary changes

See the following tables for history of changes since 2000:

Health region peer groups

In order to effectively compare health regions with similar socio–economic characteristics, health regions have been grouped into ‘peer groups’. Statistics Canada used a statistical method to achieve maximum statistical differentiation between health regions. Twenty–four variables were chosen to cover as many of the social and economic determinants of health as possible, using data collected at the health region level mostly from the Census of Canada. Concepts covered include:

  • basic demographics (for example, population change and demographic structure),
  • living conditions (for example, socio-economic characteristics, housing, and income inequality), and
  • working conditions (for example, labour market conditions).

Peer groups based on 2015 health region boundaries and 2011 Census of Population and 2011 National Household Survey data are available. There are currently nine peer groups identified by letters A through I.  There have been no changes made to peer group assignments since 2014.

See Table 8 Health regions 2015 by peer group
See Table 9 Summary table of peer groups and principal characteristics

A more detailed discussion on the rationale and methods involved in the development of peer groups is available in Health Region (2014) Peer Groups – Working paper.

Health region boundary files

Digital boundary files reflecting health region limits in effect as of December 2015.

Boundary files (documentation)



Correspondence files

Code-to-code correspondence between health regions and 2011 and 2006 Census geographic units.

Correspondence files (documentation)


Health region–to–2011 Census dissemination blocks for Ontario available in CSV format via a zipped file.

2011 Comprehensive Correspondence files Download

All Canada Correspondence files Download


Health region–to–2006 Census dissemination area (blocks for Ontario in CSV format).

2006 Comprehensive Correspondence files Download

All Canada Correspondence files Download

Reference maps

Health regions and peer groups

This series of reference maps show the boundaries, names and codes of health regions and peer groups in Canada, by province.

About the maps

2014 reference maps
2013 reference maps
2011 reference maps (from issue 2011001 of 82-583-X)
2007 reference maps (from issue 2010001 of 82-583-X)