About the maps

Health regions code structure
Cartographic issues
Health regions (2013) in Canada
Health region peer groups

The reference maps cover health regions and peer groups that are part of the Health Indicators program. Each map in the series displays the boundaries and codes of health regions and peer groups or dissemination areas, and their names. "Health region" refers to administrative areas defined by the provincial ministries of health. For complete Canadian coverage, each of the northern territories also represents a health region.

To effectively compare areas with similar socio-economic characteristics, health regions have been aggregated into “peer groups” using a statistical, objective method. The final result is a set of ten peer groups ranging in size from 3 to 25 health regions with membership crossing provincial boundaries. Health regions are identified by a four–digit code. Peer groups are classified by letters A to J which have been added to the health region codes in this map series.

There are 15 Reference maps in this series and inset maps were created to show detail for the more concentrated areas.

Health regions 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, 2013 (from publication 82-402-X) (names and codes).

Cartographic issues

The choropleth map is a 'staple' in the cartographic repertoire of thematic mapping. Indeed, over the years the popularity of choropleth maps has increased since this map type is very easy to produce by Geographic Information System (GIS) and cartographic software.

The standard choropleth technique is a method of cartographic representation that employs a distinctive colour or shading that is applied to predefined units. For example, the units can be census divisions or census tracts, and the areal symbols cover the entire geographic unit.

Limitations of choropleth maps

An underlying assumption of choropleth mapping is that the data are homogenously or uniformly spread over each geographic unit. This assumption is implied by a single colour applied across each unit. However, the complete unit or at least a large portion of the unit may be uninhabited, thus producing very misleading spatial patterns, especially when socioeconomic data are mapped by choropleth techniques.

Health regions (2013) in Canada

"Health region" refers to administrative areas defined by the provincial ministries of health. For complete Canadian coverage, each of the northern territories also represents a health region.

The following table presents an overview of health regions in Canada, by province and territory and links to pdfs for viewing current boundaries

See Table 1 - Health regions – (2013) in Canada (from publication 82-221-X).

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 2011 health region boundaries and 2006 Census data are now available. There are currently ten peer groups identified by letters A through J.

See Table 3 Health regions 2011 by peer group (from publication 82-221-X).
See Table 4 Summary table of peer groups and principal characteristics (from publication 82-221-X).

A more detailed discussion on the rationale and methods involved in the development of peer groups is available in "Health Region (2007) Peer Groups Working Paper" (from publication 82-221-X).


  1. Census division (CD) is the general term for provincially legislated areas (such as county, municipalité régionale de comté and regional district) or their equivalents. Census divisions are intermediate geographic areas between the province/territory level and the municipality (census subdivision). (Statistics Canada 2007b)
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