Our Natural Health Service
Scotland’s natural environment is a valuable health-promoting asset, but it’s currently underused. This exciting initiative aims to change that.
An ageing population, more people with multiple conditions, widespread chronic illness and medical advances – all put increasing pressure on the health sector.
Our Natural Health Service is responding to these pressures, and will show how Scotland’s natural environment is a resource that can be used to help tackle some of our key health issues. The initiative aims to bring about a step change in the use of nature-based solutions to deliver health outcomes.
Our Natural Health Service will support the health sector to embrace green health as part of policy and practice. This will see nature-based health programmes used as part of health promotion and improvement, and encourage healthier lifestyle behaviours.
NatureScot is leading the development of Our Natural Health Service, which will complement the National Health Service and support the breadth of health and social care delivery.
How it works
Our Natural Health Service aims to show how greater use of the outdoors can help to tackle physical inactivity, mental health issues and health inequalities. A range of partners across environment, transport, sport, education and health are involved. In April 2020 we published a new Our Natural Health Service leaflet aimed at professionals.
The initiative’s main objectives are to:
- increase public awareness of the use and benefits of green health as part of daily life
- include the use of nature-based health promotion initiatives and structured interventions in routine health and social care practice
An action programme developed with partners seeks to address the barriers to making more use of green health within health and social care delivery. At its core are the two strategic interventions below, which will pilot coordinated approaches to the use of nature-based solutions among key segments of the population.
NHS Greenspace for Health Partnerships
These will test partnership models that contribute to the management of the NHS outdoors estate and its use by patients, staff, visitors and local communities. NHS Greenspace for Health Partnerships are a development of the NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project, which aims to realise the health-promoting potential of NHS Greenspace.
Green Health Partnerships
Pilot Green Health Partnerships are developing area-wide, cross-sectoral action to coordinate making more use of green spaces for public health benefits. Improving information about, and awareness and promotion of, green infrastructure will be key, as will the provision of supportive green health programmes.
Background to the initiative
Our Natural Health Service builds on the successes of the Green Exercise Partnership (GEP) and is backed by the Scottish Government’s health and environment portfolios.
NatureScot, Scottish Forestry (formerly Forestry Commission Scotland) and Public Health Scotland (formerly NHS Health Scotland) formed the GEP in 2007. Its main purpose is to promote better health and quality of life for Scotland’s people by encouraging more physical activity outdoors and more contact with nature.
A big focus has been the NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project, which aims to help NHS Area Health Boards realise the health-promoting potential of their outdoors estate. The GEP has also led the push to widen the use of the outdoors and contact with nature in health promotion and improvement work. Our Natural Health Service takes this work forward.