neighbourhood park

Taking a closer look at the health of our communities

Mapping Neighbourhoods


Making the best use of health care resources involves planning that is informed by data. Local data at the neighbourhood level can tell users about the characteristics of a community, what shapes health care utilizations, and where the biggest opportunities exist for improving health outcomes. By looking at granular, neighbourhood-level data, planners and providers are able to better match community needs to the health service offer.

In most regions, health and social data are available at a national, provincial, and municipal level to inform planning. However, it’s easy for the needs of local communities to get ‘averaged out’ when planners do not have access to neighbourhood-level data. Neighbouring communities can have drastically different pictures of health and well-being, despite their close physical proximity. These differences are only visible in the data when we are able to break down the information and look at each neighbourhood separately.

Over the past year, Health Commons Solutions Lab has been working in communities across Ontario to fast-track the development of neighbourhood geographies. Starting in the south-west part of the province, the Lab brought together provincial geo-spatial experts to work alongside Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), municipalities and Public Health Units to build consensus on how to create maps of communities that make sense to locals. Now that these tools have been created, data that is available at the municipal level can be broken down at the neighborhood level providing everyone a more accurate picture of what is happening.  In total, we worked with 10 municipalities/regions, which includes 169 neighbourhoods, covering a total population of 2,361,047.

To increase the reach of this work, we developed the Mapping Neighbourhoods Field Guide, a step-by-step implementation guide to help regions implement neighbourhood-level geographies in their own community.  

What do we mean by the term “neighbourhoods”?
Using the term neighbourhoods can be confusing because they can mean different things to different people. We use neighbourhoods as geographically localized communities that, when defined, allow analysts to stratify data into geographic units smaller than an entire city or town

Related resources and tools:

  • We have developed The Mapping Neighbourhoods Field Guide a step-by-step implementation guide to help you implement neighbourhood-level geographies in your own community.  

  • Shape and conversion files for neighbourhood-level geographies co-designed by Health Commons Solutions Lab and partners, are available for download.

Tool: Mapping Neighbourhoods Field Guide

Tool: Mapping Neighbourhoods Field Guide



Many partners are involved in this project, including:

  • Ontario Community Health Profiles Partnership (OCHPP)

  • Population Health Analytics Lab

  • Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN

  • South West LHIN

  • Erie St Clair LHIN