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Poverty: A Clinical Tool for Primary Care* offers specific resources to help health care providers screen for and respond to concerns of poverty in patient encounters, particularly when caring for underserved, vulnerable, and marginalized populations.

Social determinants of health (SDoH), such as poverty, play a major role in patients’ health outcomes. With clinical leadership from Dr. Gary Bloch, the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Centre for Effective Practice (CEP) collaborated to expand and modify the Ontario Poverty Tool for participating provinces and territories.

The goal is to raise awareness among family physicians and other health professionals about how poverty affects their patients.

The poverty tool is:

  • Individualized for each participating province and territory, through the incorporation of local resources and supports
  • Designed for quick and intuitive use in day-to-day practice
  • Endorsed by the CFPC and its provincial Chapters

Poverty: A Clinical Tool for Primary Care Providers (ON)

In addition to the provincial and territorial versions of the tool available here, these tools are also available on the CEP website, along with other resources developed by the CEP.

Provincial and territorial poverty tool and resources

Frequently asked questions

  • How can I integrate the poverty tool into my practice while balancing other demands?

    The tool is great for supporting busy family physicians. It includes referrals and additional resources, as well as scientific evidence—and it takes just three simple steps:

    1. Screen everyone: “Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?”
    2. Assess risk and educate: Determine the degree to which poverty is experienced.
    3. Intervene and connect: Talk to your patient about resources and programs that may assist them.

    The tool includes province- and territory-specific resources that have been selected based on their yield for patients.

    Learning more about the SDoH and how they intersect is important for family physicians who would like to take a more proactive approach to assist patients achieve better health outcomes.

    To learn more, read the Best Advice Guide: Social Determinants of Health from the Patient’s Medical Home website.

  • How can this approach be incorporated into various types of practices?

    Though the tool focuses on one-on-one interactions between family physicians and patients, it is widely applicable to other practice settings. For example, the Family Health Team at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, uses the principles contained within the tool along with interventions related to other SDoH, to advance systems of care for disadvantaged patients. These include community engagement, collection of health equity data, and legal services for patients, among others.

    Find other, relevant practice support tools and programs

  • Are income interventions effective?

    Income interventions in a medical context are a recent concept and studies have not established a clear link between them and improved health outcomes. However, current available evidence suggests that there can be. For example, one study conducted in Manitoba in 2016 reviewed the efficacy of unconditional prenatal income supplements for low-income pregnant women. The income intervention was shown to improve health outcomes of their newborn children in the areas of low birth weight, preterm births, and small-for-gestational-age births.1

    Visit the Ontario College of Family Physicians website to learn more about primary care interventions in poverty

    1 Brownell MD, Chartier MJ, Nickel NC, Chateau D, Martens PJ, Sarkar J, et al. Unconditional Prenatal Income Supplement and Birth Outcomes. Pediatrics 2016;137(6): e20152992.

Claim Mainpro+®  credits

Members can claim Mainpro+ credits by watching the video, Improving Care for Patients Experiencing Poverty, and by completing a Linking Learning Exercise.

Learn more about Linking Learning Exercises


For more information about this project, please email Programs and Practice Support at the CFPC.

*Centre for Effective Practice. Poverty: A Clinical Tool for Primary Care Providers. Toronto: Centre for Effective Practice; October 2016.

†Adapté de “Poverty: A clinical tool for primary care in Ontario”; December 2015.


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