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Together, focusing on healthy communities

About Community Health Centres

Community Health Centres (CHCs) have been around for over 40 years and were inspired by the ideas of Tommy Douglas’ original vision for Medicare. It was hoped that as it evolved the health care system would focus more on keeping people well — not just treating them when they are sick.

What makes Community Health Centres unique?

Community Health Centres are the only primary health care model in Ontario that provides primary health care services with a wide range of other health promotion and community development services under one roof focusing on social determinants of health.  CHCs provide a very integrated model of care by working in partnership with other agencies in the community they serve, carefully shaping the services to respond its specific and diverse needs. Whether it is creating individualized self-care and group programs, CHCs are in the forefront of keeping people well.

The need to form an organization to enable CHCs to address matters of mutual interest and concern was formed in 1978 thus giving birth to the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC). Currently there are 73 CHCs, each governed by a board of directors made up of clients, community members, health providers and community leaders. 


Every One Matters – A booklet showing how Ontario’s Community Health Centres are one of the best ways to keep Ontarians and the community where they live — healthy and strong.

Every One Matters – A video for community leaders across Ontario, which shows Community Health Centres in action working together with their Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and the provincial government, to ensure their neighbourhood or community can access the benefits.

Ontario’s CHCs: Addressing Ontario’s Great Health Divide - A report for Ontario’s political parties, LHINs and provincial health care decision makers that details how the current government’s 2004-05 decision to expand access to CHCs has yielded such positive results. The report also recommends a goal that by 2020 Ontario’s Community Health Centres, as well as Aboriginal Health Access Centres should serve at least a million people living in Ontario.

Who We are and What We Do – A booklet showing that CHCs provide a model of care that offers a huge promise and potential for all Ontarians as it is especially effective at providing care for Ontarians who have traditionally had difficulty accessing primary health care.

Model of Health and Wellbeing

The Values and Principles that unite us:

Highest Quality People and Community Centred Health and Wellbeing

  • Everyone participates, individually and collectively, in decisions about their health and wellbeing.
  • Individuals and communities receive health care that meets their needs, in a timely fashion and from the most appropriate providers, and experience the best possible results.
  • Health care and other service providers work in respectful, collaborative relationships with individuals, families, and communities and each other.
  • The quality of care is optimized through continuous innovation and learning to improve the experience and outcomes of those accessing care, and the efficient use of resources.

Health Equity and Social Justice

  • Reduction in social inequality improves Health outcomes.
  • Social inequality is reduced when all people and institutions become aware of, and act on the understanding, that inequality impacts health outcomes for the already marginalized populations.
  • Equity and dignity and integrity of the person is manifest in access to nutritious food, safe and secure housing, clean water, adequate and appropriate clothing, dignified and justly-remunerated employment.
  • Health care appropriate to all ages and stages of life, and mechanisms of fulsome engagement and participation in civic, social and political processes.

Community Vitality and Belonging

  • Safe and caring communities improve health outcomes.
  • Shared values and shared vision strengthen belonging.
  • All members of the community have opportunities to participate in decision making about their communities.
  • Public, private sectors and community organizations work together to strengthen inclusive, caring and connected communities.


Attributes of the Model of Health and Wellbeing are:

Anti-oppressive and Culturally Safe: AHACs and CHCs provide services in anti-racist, anti-oppressive environments that are safe for people: where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning, living and working together with truth, respect, honesty, humility, wisdom, love and bravery. In practice we emphasize the presence of people from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds, resulting in their ability to control or influence the processes operating in their health services, and we believe this is one of the major ways to create a safe environment.

Accessible: CHCs and AHACs are designed to improve access, participation, equity, inclusiveness, and social justice by eliminating systemic barriers to full participation. CHCs and AHACs have experience in ensuring access for people who encounter a diverse range of racial, cultural, linguistic, physical, social, economic, legal, and geographic barriers which contribute to the risk of developing health problems. Removing barriers to accessibility includes the provision of culturally appropriate programs and services, programs for the non-insured, optimal location and design of facilities in compliance with the accessibility legislation, oppression-free environments, extended hours, and on-call services.

Interprofessional, integrated and coordinated: CHCs and AHACs build interprofessional teams working in collaborative practice. In these teams, salaried professionals work together to their fullest possible scope to address people’s health and wellbeing needs. CHCs and AHACs develop strong partnerships and integrations with health system and community services organizations. The partnerships and integrations ensure the delivery of seamless and timely people and community-centred health, and key social determinants of health services and programs, with appropriate referrals. Referrals encompass primary care, illness prevention, and health promotion, in one to one service, personal development groups, and community level interventions.

Community-governed: CHCs and AHACs are not-for-profit organizations, governed by community boards made up of members of the local community. Community boards and committees provide a mechanism for CHCs and AHACs to represent and be responsive to the needs of their local communities, and for communities to develop democratic ownership over “their” Centres. Community governance builds the health of the local communities through engaged participation contributing to social capital and community leadership.

Based on the Social Determinants of Health: The health of individuals and communities is impacted by the social determinants of health including income, education, employment, working conditions, early childhood development, food insecurity, housing, social exclusion, social safety network, health services, Aboriginal status, gender, race and racism, culture and disability. CHCs and AHACs strive for improvements in social supports and conditions that affect the long-term health of people and communities, through participation in multi and cross-sector partnerships and advocacy for the development of healthy public policy, within a population health framework.

Grounded in a Community Development Approach: The CHC and AHAC services and programs are driven by community initiatives and community needs. The community development approach builds on community leadership, knowledge, and the lived experiences of community members and partners to contribute to the health of their communities. CHCs and AHACs increase the capacity of local communities to address their community-wide needs and improve their community and individual health and wellbeing outcomes.

Population and Needs-Based: CHCs and AHACs are continuously adapting and refining their ability to reach and to serve people and communities. CHCs and AHACs plan services and programs based on population health needs and develop best practices for serving those needs.

Accountable and Efficient: CHCs and AHACs are high performing efficient Primary Health Care (PHC) organizations that are accountable to their funders and the local communities served. CHCs and AHACs strive to provide fair, equitable compensation and benefits for their staff. Capturing and measuring their work are essential parts of delivering Primary Health Care. Developing and implementing meaningful indicators based on our Model of Health and Wellbeing allows for reporting to all funders about services and programs delivered as well as the outcomes that follow.

Contact Information

Contact the Association of Ontario Health Centres at

500 – 970 Lawrence Avenue West
Toronto, ON M6A 3B6
Tel: (416) 236-2539