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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis


New book unravels Ontario’s health system

03 Jan 2017

Have you ever wondered how the Ontario health system works?

You can find answers in a book edited by CHEPA associate director John Lavis, entitled Ontario’s Health System: Key Insights for Engaged Citizens, Professionals and Policymakers, which helps make the system more understandable to the citizens who pay for it and are served by it, the professionals who work in it (and future professionals who will one day work in it), and the policymakers who govern it. 

“McMaster University is renowned for producing and synthesizing the best available research evidence in the health and healthcare fields,” said Lavis, director of the McMaster Health Forum. “I’m excited about the opportunities this new book offers to students and faculty members seeking to achieve impacts with research evidence. Understanding how the Ontario health system currently works is critical to making it work better.” 

The full book can be bought on (People outside Canada can find it at If you are interested in particular topics (such as how money flows or how the primary care sector functions), individual book chapters are freely available by clicking here.  Adobe Reader is required to open the PDF pages. 

The book is divided into sections:

Part 1 describes the ‘building blocks’ of the system, including who gets to make what decisions (governance arrangements), how money flows through the system (financial arrangements), and what and who make up the system’s infrastructure and workforce (delivery arrangements).

Part 2 explains how these building blocks are used to provide:

  1. Care in each of six sectors – home and community care, primary care, specialty care, rehabilitation care, long-term care, and public health;
  2. Care for four conditions or groupings of conditions – mental health and addictions, work-related injuries and diseases, cancer, and end-of-life;
  3. Care using select treatments – prescription and over-the-counter drugs, complementary and alternative therapies, and dental services;
  4. Care for Indigenous peoples.
Part 3 describes recent and planned reforms to the system and assesses how the health system is performing.

The system is complex, so 66 tables and 25 figures have been included to aid understanding, including 16 ‘at-a-glance’ figures that summarize the policies, programs, places and people that are key to understanding particular types of care.
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