Health Regions: Boundaries and Correspondence with Census Geography
User guide

Skip to text

Text begins

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.

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.

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.

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
  • 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 Statistics Division worked closely with the provincial Ministries of Health and the Statistical Registers and 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.

Date modified: