Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PCCF and FSA comparison


A researcher is trying to identify FSAs by provincial health authorities--the first thing I thought of was the PCCF. Is this a good use of the PCCF / PCCF flavour? Is there an alternative?


I have a suggestion, which might work for your question, and doesn’t require using the PCCF!

Statistics Canada freely provides boundary files for census geography in popular formats such as ArcGIS, GML and MapInfo. The list of downloadable geographies does include Forward Sortation Areas.

Stat Can also provides Health region boundary files. In the user guide, they explain that the health regions are “defined by provincial ministries of health” and will change as the provinces draw up new lines. The files I’ve linked you to are from 2014, but it’s possible to go back in time if working with older data.

So you could download these boundary files in a format compatible with your favorite (?!) GIS software. Then, if you have the knowledge yourself or know a friendly GIS person at your institution that can help, it’s possible to do all kinds of magic – including generating a list of FSAs by health regions. If there’s no GIS people where you are, let us know… several people on this list have experience with GIS software and might be willing to help.

While looking at the boundary files in the software, it will be easier to see if there are problems integrating FSAs and health regions – my understanding is that the country is divided in FSAs by Canada Post for their own needs and the provinces are divided in health regions by the provinces for their own needs – they might not fit exactly with each other.

Following up on the suggestion about comparing boundary files:

I have experience comparing these in Ontario and can confirm that they don't necessarily overlap. In some cases you can make educated guesses about the health unit in which you'd find the bulk of the population for a given FSA, but for other cases this may be quite difficult. Also, the case may be different in BC.