Understanding the report on Key Health Inequalities in Canada

Canadians are among the healthiest people in the world. However, as this report shows, the benefits of good health are not equally enjoyed by all. Many of these inequalities are the result of social, political, and economic disadvantages, which affect our chances of achieving and maintaining good health. This report describes the degree and distribution of key health inequalities in Canada, a critical step in taking action to advance health equity.


This report is a product of the Pan-Canadian Health Inequalities Reporting (HIR) Initiative, a collaboration among the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network, Statistics Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and the First Nations Information Governance Centre. Based on a framework developed by the World Health Organization, the HIR Initiative aims to strengthen the measurement, monitoring and reporting of health inequalities in Canada through improved access to data and the development of resources to improve our knowledge of health inequalities. Data from the HIR Initiative can be accessed using the online interactive Health Inequalities Data Tool.

This report presents results at the national level for 22 indicators of health status and determinants of health, selected to highlight some of the most pronounced and widespread health inequalities in Canada. Health inequalities are demonstrated according to a number of social, economic and demographic factors known to be important to health equity, including age, sex, income, education, employment, occupation, Indigenous identity, rural/urban residence, immigrant status, sexual orientation, functional health (physical and mental impairment), and cultural/racial background. Data for the report come from over a dozen sources including national surveys on health and well-being, as well as databases used to track births, deaths, illness and injury. Many of these sources do not cover First Nations people living on reserve and in northern communities. Working in partnership with the First Nations Information Governance Centre, data from the First Nations Regional Health Survey and information to provide context have been included to help fill these gaps.

Key Findings

Significant health inequalities were observed for those with lower socioeconomic status, Indigenous peoples, sexual and racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, and people living with functional limitations (such as physical or mental impairments). Socio-economic contexts which define different levels of advantage and disadvantage were associated with differing health outcomes. As such, a strong relationship between health and income, education levels, employment, and occupational status was evident for many indicators, meaning that health outcomes worsened progressively with every step of lower socioeconomic status.


The range and depth of health inequalities in Canada constitute a call to action across all levels and areas of society. This report provides key principles for action and practices, based on growing global evidence, which can help advance health equity within Canada. Achieving health equity is a shared responsibility that requires creating and sustaining healthy living and working conditions and environments. When the conditions are in place for everyone to have the opportunity to be heathier, we all enjoy the benefits.

Learn more about the report results in images - infographics

Page details

Date modified: