Couple walking through a beech woodland in autumn, Perthshire. ©Lorne Gill/2020VISION For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

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.

diagram of the concept of Our Natural Health Service shows how green exercise activities that make use of our environmental assets can contribute to the collective responsibilities associated with public health, and health and social care.

Our Natural Health Service will support the health sector to embrace green exercise 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.

Scottish Natural Heritage 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.

The initiative’s main objectives are to:

  • increase public awareness of the use and benefits of green exercise 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 exercise within health and social care delivery. At its core are the three 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.

Local 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.

SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland and 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.

Find out more in our Green Exercise Partnership Briefing Note


Alan Macpherson
Telephone: 01463 725 240
Email: [email protected]