There has been a growing interest in examining the how the conditions of a person’s daily life such as access to health, educational attainment, financial stability, or the neighbourhood they live in can effect their health.

In Canada, researchers can now begin to explore connections between the receipt of social assistance, which helps cover their basic needs, and people’s health.

For the very first time, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services-Social Assistance database (2003-2016) has been linked to the Registered Persons Database, a population registry containing data on all individuals issued a health card number in Ontario, Canada.

Up until now, there has not been a sufficient amount of data in most regions in Canada that are reliable or comprehensive enough to use for research effectively. To address this need for more data, the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, which administers social assistance programs in Ontario, partnered with ICES. Each organisation collects and manages separate databases of social and health data, respectively. By bringing these data together in a process known as data linkage, researchers can now begin to answer a whole range of questions that previously weren’t possible. Ultimately, this will help to support decision-making, policy development, and service provision relevant to the health and well-being of individuals receiving social assistance.

A new study published today in the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS) provides a detailed description of the data integration strategy that was used to prepare the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services-Social Assistance database for research through record linkage with the administrative health care databases held at ICES.

The study also demonstrates the difference in the quality of the datasets when they are used together through linkage rather than using them separately. It shows what is known as a high linkage rate (that is, a mark of a high level of consistent capture between both data sources), which will enable scientists to examine the many social factors that can influence people’s health, and answer a series of questions that have not been possible until now.

According to Claire de Oliveira, one of the study co-authors, “this unique data linkage will help researchers undertake much needed research on the relationship between physical and mental health and the receipt of social assistance using comprehensive data on individuals living in Ontario.”


Click here to read the full open access article.

Claire de Oliveira, ICES, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

de Oliveira, C., Gatov, E., Rosella, L., Chen, S., Strauss, R., Azimaee , M. ., Paterno, E., Guttmann, A. and Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services-ICES Working Group (2022) “Describing the linkage between administrative social assistance and health care databases in Ontario, Canada”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 7(1). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v7i1.1689.