User guide

Health region code structure
Correspondence files
Boundary files
Projection information

Tables and appendices


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.

Since the last update of this product in 2005 there have been few changes in the provincial health regions. Existing changes include a small boundary change in New Brunswick and the abolishment of the health regions in Prince Edward Island. The health region codes for Alberta have been updated to align with codes used by Alberta Health and Wellness. The 2007 Health Regions: Boundaries and Correspondence with Census Geography reflects the boundaries as of December 2007 and provides the geographic linkage to 2001 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.

Table 1 Health regions and relevant legislation, by province 2007

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 codes in Alberta have been updated to align with the codes used by Alberta Health and Wellness.

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

See Appendix 1: Health regions in Canada, 2007 (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 2006 and 2001 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 with municipalities. The 2006 and 2001 Census linkages were 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, then linked to health regions based on the correspondence file.

Correspondence files were provided by Alberta (Alberta Treasury supplied files with health region to 2006 Census blocks), British Columbia (BC Stats provided health region to 2006 DAs), Quebec (ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux provided health region to 2006 DAs) and Manitoba (Manitoba Health provided health region to 2006 DAs). 

Table 2: Census geography definitions

The dissemination area/block-to-health region (DA/block-to-HR) correspondence files provided in this publication are available in comma-separated value (CSV) format for each province and for the northern territories.

Record layout

The record layout of the files is shown in the following tables.

Table 3: 2006 Census health region correspondence file layout


Table 4: 2001 Census health region correspondence file layout

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 5: Census subdivisions linked to more than one health region

Boundary files

The health region boundaries provided in this product are based on 2006 and 2001 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 DA's 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 2008 boundary files

All processes and procedures to update the digital boundary files were carried out using ESRI ® ArcGIS TM 9.2, ESRI ® ArcCatalog TM 9.2, Microsoft ® Access 2002 and Microsoft ® Excel 2002.

1. Provinces reporting no geographic changes since 2005

The majority of the provinces and all of the territories did not report any geographic changes since the 2005 update. Contacts in the health ministries in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut reported no health region boundary changes.

2. Boundary changes – correspondence files created by Statistics Canada

In New Brunswick, the entire CSD of Cambridge-Narrows village (population 717) was reassigned from Region 2 to Region 3.

In November 2005 Prince Edward Island officially disbanded the four health regions. The three existing counties (census divisions) are presented as an alternative set of boundaries to retain relevant subprovincial data from the CCHS, commencing June 2008.

In 2008, the British Columbia health authorities changed the health region relationship from Dissemination Areas to Blocks. This increased the number of CSD splits from 6 to 19.

Boundary file formats

All digital health region boundaries in this publication are available in two formats: An Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) ® shapefile format and MapInfo® table format version 9.5.

The ESRI ® shapefile is supplied in a zip file. This file expands to provide four files of different extensions which are: (DBF, SHP, PRJ and SHX).

The MapInfo® format, ©Pitney Bowes Software Inc.,  is supplied in a zip file. This file expands to provide four files of different extensions which are: (TAB, DAT, ID, and MAP).

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

           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 Statistics Division worked closely with the provincial Ministries of Health and the Geography Division of Statistics Canada to produce this product. BC Stats, Alberta Treasury, le ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec and Manitoba Health also contributed directly to this work by providing health region-to-census geography correspondence files.

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