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1 Urban and Rural Population

Description | Specific Indicators | Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS) | Corresponding Health Indicator(s) from Statistics Canada and CIHIData SourcesMethod of Calculation | Basic Categories | Indicator Comments | Definitions | Cross-References to Other SectionsOther Reference(s) | Changes Made

Description·         Percent of population living in urban areas. An urban area is defined as having a population of at least 1,000 and a minimum population density of 400 people per square kilometre. ·         Percent of population living in rural areas. All territory outside urban areas is considered rural.

Specific Indicators

  • Urban population
  • Rural population

Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS)  

The Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS) establish requirements for the fundamental public health programs and services carried out by boards of health, which include assessment and surveillance, health promotion and policy development, disease and injury prevention, and health protection. The OPHS consist of one Foundational Standard and 13 Program Standards that articulate broad societal goals that result from the activities undertaken by boards of health and many others, including community partners, non-governmental organizations, and governmental bodies. These results have been expressed in terms of two levels of outcomes: societal outcomes and board of health outcomes. Societal outcomes entail changes in health status, organizations, systems, norms, policies, environments, and practices and result from the work of many sectors of society, including boards of health, for the improvement of the overall health of the population. Board of health outcomes are the results of endeavours by boards of health and often focus on changes in awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, practices, environments, and policies. Boards of health are accountable for these outcomes. The standards also outline the requirements that boards of health must implement to achieve the stated results.  Outcomes Related to this Indicator·         Societal Outcome (Foundational Standard):  Population health needs are anticipated, identified, addressed, and evaluated. 

Assessment and/or Surveillance Requirements Related to this Indicator

The board of health shall conduct surveillance, including the ongoing collection, collation, analysis, and periodic reporting of population health indicators, as required by the Health Protection and Promotion Act and in accordance with the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2008 (or as current) (Foundational Standard). 

Protocol Requirements Related to this Indicator

The board of health shall collect or access the following types of population health data and information: Socio-demographics including population counts… (Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, Data Access, collection and management, 1b)

 Corresponding Health Indicator(s) from Statistics Canada and CIHI 

The internet publication Health Indicators, produced jointly by Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, provides over 80 indicators measuring the health of the Canadian population and the effectiveness of the health care system. Designed to provide comparable information at the health region and provincial/territorial levels, these data are produced from a wide range of the most recently available sources.  A pdf copy of this report can be found on CIHI’s website ( under Research and Reports or under the PDF tab on the Statistics Canada web-page at 

Urban and Rural Population:
Data are derived from Census sources. 
This community characteristic allows users to compare regions with similar proportions of urban/rural population.

 Data Sources Numerator & Denominator: Census
Original source:
Statistics Canada
Distributed by: Statistics Canada & CIHI Health Indicators
Suggested citation (see Data Citation Notes):
Urban and Rural Population [years], Census, Statistics Canada, Extracted: [date]

 Method of Calculation

Urban Population:Urban population (UP)
Total population (TP)
UP/TP*100Urban population (UP)/ Total population (TP)*100

Rural Population:Rural population (RP)
Total population (TP)
RP/TP*100Rural population (RP)/ Total population (TP)*100

Basic Categories

Geographic areas of patient residence: public health unit, census division, county, census sub-division, municipality, forward sortation area (FSA) or postal code.

  Indicator Comments

  • The CCHS is population based and therefore excludes homeless people.
  • This community characteristic allows users to compare regions with similar proportions of urban/rural population.
  • Rural areas are sparsely populated lands lying outside urban areas. Within rural areas of Canada, population densities and living conditions can vary greatly. Included in rural areas are:
    • Small towns, villages and other populated places with less than 1,000 population according to the current census;
    • Rural fringes of census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations that may contain estate lots, agricultural, undeveloped and non-developed lands; agricultural lands; and remote and wilderness areas. 
  • Population data used to delineate urban areas are obtained from the previous census. If significant population growth or decline has occurred since the previous census, the designation of an area as urban or rural may no longer reflect its current population or population density. As a result, it may no longer conform to the urban area delineation rules.
  • For the first time, urban areas are defined using population counts and population density data from the current census, instead of from the previous census. The population density data are block-based rather than enumeration-area based as for previous censuses. 
  • The geographic units used for the delineation of urban areas for 2006 are urban areas as defined for the 2001 Census, and dissemination blocks as defined for the 2006 Census.
  • Urban and rural areas may be used as variables to cross-classify census data for standard geographic areas such as census subdivisions, census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, or census metropolitan area and census agglomeration influenced zones (MIZ).


Rural Area - Rural population includes all population living in the rural fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations (CAs), as well as population living in rural areas outside CMAs and CAs. For definitions of geographic basic areas see

Cross-References to Other Indicators


 Other Reference(s)1.     Statistics Canada. 2006 Census Dictionary. Ottawa, ON: Ministry of Industry, 2006. Available from: URL:     Urbanization in Canada. Canadian Social Trends, 1991 Summer.

Changes Made
DateType of Review – Formal Review or Ad Hoc?Changes made byChanges
November, 2010FormalSocial Determinants of Health Subgroup·         New section on OPHS added·         Addition of Outcome, Assessment and/or Surveillance, and Protocol requirements related to this indicator·         Corresponding Health Indicators from Statistics Canada and CIHI updated·         Indicator comments and definitions updated·         All sections have been updated in alignment with the new Guide to Creating or Editing Core Indicator pages·         Reference 1 url updated 


Lead AuthorLuanne Jamieson, Hamilton Public Health Services
Contributing Author(s)

Cam McDermaid, Ottawa Public HealthNancy Ramuscak, Region of Peel Public HealthVirginia McFarland, Grey Bruce Public Health Alissa Palangio, Sudbury and District Health UnitWilliam Kou, York Region Community and Health Services

Core Indicator Reviewers 
External Reviewers 
  Last Updated: December 10, 2010


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