Benefits Screening


Prescribing income assistance to treat the health effects of poverty

Research has identified strong causal linkages between poverty and poor health. Consequently, there is a growing interest in poverty reduction interventions as a means of reducing health disparities. Screening to identify patients that are living on low income and identifying opportunities to access income tax benefits and other government benefit programs can be an effective and rapid means of boosting incomes. Doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital, the University of Toronto, and the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) have developed and made broadly available a paper-based, clinical poverty and benefits screening tool for this purpose. The original paper-based solution has now been enhanced through the creation of this online Benefits Screening Tool which is intended to boost the incomes of patients in an even more effective and scalable way.

Providing customized information for patients living on low incomes

The Benefits Screening Tool is available for use by primary care health providers. This clinical tool will equip health practitioners to screen patients for low income, adjust their health risk assessment accordingly and intervene through identifying benefits that patients are eligible for, but not currently receiving. After completing a questionnaire, a report is generated with tailored advice on government benefits based on the patient’s personal circumstances.The report also provides online guidance, supports and resources to help patients access benefits successfully.

The Benefits Screening Tool was designed through an ongoing partnership between the Upstream Lab based at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital and Prosper Canada. Collaborators included health providers and academics based at Inner City Family Health Team, Michael Garron Hospital, the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, the University of Manitoba and Sinai Health System. Funding for this project was received from the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, St. Michael's Hospital Foundation, Research Manitoba, Bridgepoint Active Healthcare and Maytree.

Bridgepoint is the single largest organization in Canada to focus exclusively on research, care and teaching for people with complex health conditions

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency.

The Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation is dedicated to programs and projects that promote financial literacy and independence among lower income individuals, families, entrepreneurs and small businesses. Find out more at

Maytree is committed to advancing systemic solutions to poverty and strengthening civic communities.

Research Manitoba aims to promote, support and coordinate the funding of research in the health, natural and social sciences, engineering and the humanities in Manitoba.

The St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, through its philanthropic activities, assists St. Michael’s Hospital in attracting the resources required to fulfill and enhance its mission of caring, research and education.

St. Michael’s Hospital is a major teaching and research health science centre in Toronto, with expertise in diverse areas of health care.

The Ontario College of Family Physicians is the voice of family medicine throughout the province, and supports members by providing evidence‐based education and professional development, by promoting and recognizing leadership and by advocating for the role family physicians play.

Prosper Canada works with partners in all sectors to develop and promote financial policies, programs and resources that transform lives and help Canadians to prosper.

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