Health Regions: Boundaries and Correspondence with Census Geography
Health regions and peer groups


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. For complete Canadian coverage, each of the northern territories also represents a health region.

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 Health regions in Canada, 2018

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

Table 2
Health regions and relevant legislation, by province 2018

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 detailed list, by province, of census subdivisions that fall in more than one health region.

Table 3
Detailed list of census subdivisions split by two or more health regions, 2018

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–three 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:

Peer groups are based on 2018 health region boundaries and 2016 Census of Population data. There are currently eight peer groups identified by letters A through H.

See Health regions 2018 by peer group

A more detailed discussion on the rationale and methods involved in the development of peer groups is available in Health Region Peer Groups – Working paper, 2018.


Health Statistics Division worked closely with the provincial Ministries of Health and the Statistical Geomatics Centre 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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