The Eight Domains

Using a wide range of data sources, primarily from Statistics Canada, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) tracks progress (or lack of progress) in eight domains that focus on key aspects of life that have a major impact on health and wellbeing including: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards, and time use.

These eight domains, along with their affiliated wellbeing indicators, provide a quick snapshot of how our quality of life is changing, for better or worse. Read on to learn more about the domains and indicators as well as how the programs and services offered by members of the Association of Ontario Health Centres address quality of life. 


Education is the systematic instruction, schooling, or training given to the young in preparation for the work of life, and by extension, similar instruction or training obtained by adults. Before the start of formal schooling in kindergarten, education is reflected in pre-school arrangements such as childcare and early childhood education. Beyond high school, college or university, and professional training through apprenticeships, education takes place in the form of adult learning and lifelong learning.

The Education domain focuses on both traditional indicators of school-based learning as well as less conventional indicators that represent personal and professional development. 

Available childcare spaces
Public school cost per student
Public school student-to-teacher ratio
Time spent in talk-based activities with children
Working Canadians completing high school
Population with university degree
Undergraduate tuition fees
Participation in education-related activities
Shift the conversation: Education
Example: The Back to School Community Store
The Back to School Community Store, led by the Centre de Santé communautaire du Grand Sudbury supports a solid start in school for children and youth which can be a protective health factor for a lifetime. The store offers families brand new school supplies at 10% of the actual cost, which they can pay either through a cash contribution, or through volunteer work with the store.



Community Vitality

Vital communities are those that have strong, active and inclusive relationships among residents, the private and public sectors, and civil society organisations – relationships that promote individual and collective wellbeing. Vital communities are able to cultivate and marshal these relationships in order to create, adapt, and thrive in the changing world. They do so in ways that are inclusive and respectful of the needs and aspirations of diverse communities.

The Community Vitality domain tells us what is happening in our neighbourboods, how safe we feel, and whether or not we are engaged in community activities or becoming socially isolated. 

Reporting unpaid, formal volunteering
Five or more close friends
Level of police-reported crime
Feel safe walking alone after dark
Belief that most people can be trusted
Provide unpaid help to others
Strong sense of belonging to community
Experience discrimination based on ethno-cultural characteristics
Shift the conversation: Community Vitality
Example: Dundonalds Park
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to create a vibrant, safe, accessible park. When communities come together to improve collective sense of belonging, safety, social cohesion, trust and participation, they nurture community vitality. In 2011, Centretown Community Health Centre responded to a call-out from 8-80 Cities, a Toronto-based charitable organization that aims to promote urban parks as accessible and safe spaces for everyone aged 8 to 80.



Democratic Engagement

A society that enjoys a high degree of democratic engagement is one where citizens participate in political activities, express political views, and share political knowledge; where governments build relationships, trust, shared responsibility, and encourage citizen participation; and where democratic values are sustained by citizens, government, and civil society.

Democratic engagement means being involved in the democratic process through political institutions, organisations, and activities.

Voter turnout at federal elections
Satisfied with way democracy works in Canada
Level of confidence in federal parliament
Ratio of registered to eligible voters
Women in federal parliament
Member of Parliament’s office budget devoted to sending communications to constituents
Volunteer for a law, advocacy or political group
Gap between older and younger voter turnout
Shift the conversation: Democratic Engagement
Example: Committed Citizens Change the World
As Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world." In Mimico, Ontario, this is precisely what is happening. When citizens become democratically engaged by participating in political activities, expressing political views, and fostering political knowledge, they take ownership over their communities, working actively to support building a well and healthy place to live, work and grow.




The Environment domain identifies trends in the availability and use of natural resources in Canada's environment and assesses some of the impacts of human activity on the environment. 

Ground level ozone
Greenhouse gas emissions
Primary energy production
Fresh water supply
Ecological footprint
Metal reserves in Canadian mines
Residential energy use
Total farm land
Shift the conversation: Environment
Example: Pinery Provincial Park Community Walking Program
Friends of Pinery Park, a local group dedicated to preserving and promoting Pinery Provincial Park, noticed that while the park was a thriving tourist attraction, the community of Grand Bend was not actively engaged in the park and benefiting from all that the park had to offer. By teaming up with Grand Bend Community Health Centre and Grand Bend Foundation, the Pinery Walking Group was formed in 2010 to improve physical activity and get people outdoors to enjoy nature.



Healthy Populations

The Healthy Populations domain looks at the health of the population and considers whether different aspects of our health are improving or deteriorating. It examines life expectancy, lifestyle and behaviours, and the circumstances that influence health as well as health care quality, access, and public health services.

In this way, it captures both the overall health of the population as well as factors that influence health because individuals' lifestyles and behaviours are constrained and shaped by broader social factors.

Self-rated overall health
Self-reported diabetes
Life expectancy at birth
Daily/occasional teen smokers
No health conditions that limit activity
Influenza immunization rate
Self-rated mental health
Access to family doctor
Shift the conversation: Healthy Populations
Example: Women Everywhere (WE) Breastfeed
In 2007, the Guelph Community Health Centre (CHC) started the Women Everywhere (WE) Breastfeed program, modeled after a similar initiative in Kitchener, in response to a community-identified need. With the help of a Registered Nurse, volunteers were trained to become peer-leaders to give fellow new mothers advice and support on breastfeeding.


Leisure and Culture

The Leisure and Culture domain explores Canadians' participation and engagement with the arts, culture, and recreation.

The myriad of activities and opportunities we pursue and enjoy benefit our overall life satisfaction and quality of life. As forms of human expression, they help to fully define our lives, the meaning we derive from them, and ultimately, our wellbeing.

Time spent in social leisure activities
Time spent in arts and culture activities
Volunteering for culture/recreation organizations
Participation in physical activities lasting over 15 min
Performing arts attendance
National Historic Sites and Parks visitation
Nights away on vacation
Household expenditures on culture/recreation
Shift the conversation: Leisure and Culture
Example: Latin Men United
If there is one thing that the Spanish-speaking men living with life challenges in the Davenport-Perth area have in common, it is a deep love for soccer. Soccer, like many forms of leisure and culture, contributes to the experience of health and wellbeing by improving physical fitness and mental health, creating social connections, and giving the opportunity to have fun outdoors.



Living Standards

The Living Standards domain measures the level and distribution of income and wealth by monitoring poverty rates and income volatility, including the security of jobs, food, housing, and security provided by the social safety net.

Gap between lowest and highest income groups
Median family income
Persons in low income
Food insecurity
Long-term unemployment rate
Employed labour force
Trends in job quality
Housing affordability
Shift the conversation: Living Standards
Example: Latin Men United
For the newcomers, refugees and parents who frequent the Oriole Food Space, preparing food is about feeding the body as well as the soul. Food is a key component of living standards, which along with other factors such as income, economic security, housing and social services is intimately connected to how people experience health and wellbeing.



Time use

Time use measures how people experience and spend their time, what factors control time use, and how time use affects wellbeing. It considers, among others, the length of our work week and our work arrangements, as well as our levels of time pressure.

The implicit assumption is the notion of balance. Most activities are beneficial to wellbeing when done in moderation, but are detrimental when done excessively or not at all.

People working more than 50 hours per week
People working part time, not by choice
High levels of time pressure
Commute time to/from work
Workers with flexible work hours
Workers with regular, daytime work hours
Daily time spent with friends
Good quality sleep
Shift the conversation: Time Use
Example: The Walking School Bus
In early 2009, a community member with Action Sandy Hill approached Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and Viscount Alexander Public School to see if there was interest in developing a Walking School Bus program. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, parents and volunteer "drivers" from the community meet children at a certain point and continue walking on a route to school, picking up other children along the way – just like a real school bus.