Health care providers

Health care providers play an important role in promoting opportunity for all and addressing the determinants of health. As a health care provider, you can create change in a client’s life simply by initiating a conversation about his or her socio economic status, and having the capacity to help.

This section includes a three step clinical tool that was developed by Drs. Larisa Eibisch, Gary Bloch, Katie Dorman, Danyaal Raza, and Esther Ernst. The tool can be used to address poverty in primary care, and the web-based resources can help you and your clients navigate income support systems.

Treating poverty: Three step clinical tool1

Screen (Ask)

Poverty is everywhere but it is not always apparent. You should screen everyone. Ask your client, “Do you ever have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?”

Adjust risk

Factor poverty into clinical decision-making like other risk factors.  Research has shown that growing up in poverty has been associated with increased adult morbidity and mortality resulting in a number of risk factors (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental illness, cancer, other chronic conditions, infant mortality and low birth weight).


By asking these simple questions to your clients, you can help them by providing information about income security programs.

For everybody

Have you filled out and mailed in your tax forms?

For seniors living in poverty

Do you receive Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement?

For families with children

Do you receive the Child Benefit on the 20th of every month?

For people with disabilities

Do you receive payments for Disability?

For Indigenous people

Do you have Status and have you used Non-Insured Health Benefits?

For social assistance recipients

Have you applied for extra income supplements?
If you might qualify, have you applied for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)?

For more information on the tool

Please visit the College of Family Physicians of Canada for more information about the clinical tool and Primary Care Interventions in Poverty (Ontario College of Family Physicians of Canada).

Benefits finder tool

Use this tool from the Government of Canada to get a customized list of benefits for which your client may be eligible.

Income referral resources

There are a number of income referral resources that are available to clients. Here is a list of resources to address poverty.

Public Health Prevention Series webinar: Social inequities in health

This webinar will explore how the social determinants of health contribute to your patient’s prospects for well-being, recovery from sickness, and ability to meet the prevention and treatment recommendations you prescribe. The session will review clinical tools that address patient’s needs related to poverty and identify opportunities for advocacy. This webinar will be offered by teleconference or WebEx on October 14, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Please call 705.522.9200, ext. 466 for more information about registration.

Health care provider links to social determinants of health

Check out a few relevant links and other professional resources about the social determinants of health.


Canadian Dental Association


Dietitians of Canada


Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada
The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Canadian Nurses Association
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario

Social Worker

Ontario Association of Social Workers

1 Eibisch, L., Bloch, G., Dorman, K., Raza, D., & Ernst, E. Treating Poverty: An approach to office-based poverty intervention & income replacement programs for family physicians [PowerPoint slides].

This item was last modified on October 6, 2016