Improving Health and Wellbeing Through Our Natural Health Service

Scotland's natural environment is an under-utilised asset for the promotion and improvement of physical and mental health and wellbeing.

In particular, green exercise which denotes an active and passive engagement in the outdoors to foster better health outcomes has a significant role to play in tackling pressing health issues. 

The context

The significance of nature to human welfare is increasingly recognised with a range of positive psychological, cognitive and physiological health outcomes achievable by using the outdoors as our 'natural health service'.

A growing evidence-base for action to link the environment and the public’s health, a changing health and social care landscape and complex population needs make now an ideal time to develop and mainstream the use of Scotland's abundant natural resources across rural and urban settings to improve health and wellbeing. 

The event​

Join us to explore how developing our natural health service can help support and complement the NHS and wider healthcare delivery. We will examine the policy context, programme of interventions already underway and opportunities for organisations to work together to maximise, up-scale and co-ordinate current and future approaches.

Follow #OurNaturalHealthService on Twitter to join the conversation before and during the event! 

In association with


Key issues to be addressed

  • What is the natural health service and how it is currently being used by the health and social care sector?
  • What is the potential role of the natural health service for contributing to current challenges in public health and healthcare delivery?
  • What are the barriers to mainstreaming green exercise projects and programmes into health policy and practice?
  • How do we develop better links between health and environment sectors, and wider cross-sectoral co-ordination to maximise health outcomes from Scotland's natural health service?


09:15   Registration and Refreshments 

09:45 Session 1: Policy Context and Overview

09:45   Welcome and Introduction from the Chair

Dr Jackie Hyland, Board Member, Scottish Natural Heritage 

09:50  Meeting Scotland's Health Challenges 

  • The role of the natural health service for improving population health and wellbeing
  • Maximising the impact of individual's and communities' assets

Dr Miles Mack, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners 

10:10  Realising The Potential of Scotland's Natural Health Service 

  • The contribution of nature to a healthier Scotland
  • Development and next steps for the natural health service action programme

Pete Rawcliffe, Unit Manager, People and Places, Scottish Natural Heritage

10:30    Turning Your Life Around: The Role of Physical Activity

  • A user's perspective
  • Where are we now with Physical Activity in Scotland?
  • How to get the Physical Activity message across?

Professor Chris Oliver, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, and Board Member, Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust @CyclingSurgeon 

10:50   Questions and Discussion 

11:10   Refreshments and Networking

11:30 Session 2: Key Challenges and Opportunities for Developing the Natural Health Service

During this panel discussion, we will consider topics including: 

  • Nature and human health: what we know and what we may never know and implications for policy and practice   
  • Using green exercise & greenspace within health and social care and linking with physical activity pathways
  • Challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming Green Exercise provision - improving supply and stimulating demand
  • Place-based approaches: making more of place-based investment in green infrastructure
  • Using the natural health service to tackle health inequalities 
  • Mental health and wellbeing and the natural health service 
  • Supporting the shift needed from treatment to prevention, early intervention and greater personal responsibility for health

Professor Rich Mitchell, Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health, University of Glasgow

Flora Jackson, Health Improvement Manager, Physical Activity, NHS Health Scotland 

Iain Rennick, Head of the Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention Fund Team, Scottish Natural Heritage 

Becky Chenery, Horticulture Instructor, SAMH 

Gillian Lindsay, Assistant Health Promotion Manager, NHS Lanarkshire

12:30   Lunch and Networking

13:20 Session 3: Case Studies of Existing Good Practice 

13:20   Improving Health and Wellbeing in Green and Blue Spaces

  • Investing in places and infrastructure

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure, Scottish Canals

13:35   The Potential of NHS Estates as Community Green Gyms

  • The challenges and successes of a third sector partner delivering Green Exercise on NHS estates
  • Quantifying, selling and delivering broad health benefits within the NHS

Dominic Hall, Operations Leader - Communities and Biodiversity, The Conservation Volunteers

13:55   Promoting Walking for Health within Health and Social Care Practice

  • The value and benefits of walking for health programmes 
  • Challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming walking for health programmes within health and social care 

Frances Bain, Manager, Walking for Health, Paths For All

14:10   Branching Out

  • The economic case for green exercise provision

Kevin Lafferty, Access, Health and Recreation Advisor, Forestry Commission Scotland 

14:30   Developing a Local Green Health Partnership

  • Key challenges and the outcomes that can be delivered 

Gillian Lindsay, Assistant Health Promotion Manager, South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership

14:45  Questions and Discussion 

15:15  Chair's Closing Remarks 

15:30  Close of Event

*agenda subject to changes

Who will benefit from attending?

  • Senior staff in health boards and health and social care partnerships
  • ​Community planning partnerships; integrated joint boards
  • Clinical commissioning groups
  • Scottish Government policy leads in health & environment
  • Professional bodies
  • Research community
  • NGOs


COSLA, Verity House, 19 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh, EH12 5BH


Delegate rates (excluding VAT)

  • Discounted rate: £145 (Voluntary / charitable organisations with an annual income of less than £1m)
  • Reduced rate: 1 place £245 | 2+ places £195 (Central government departments and agencies, local authorities, universities, colleges, NHS, police, professional associations and voluntary / charitable organisations with an annual income over £1m)
  • Full rate: 1 place £295 | 2+ places £245 (Commercial organisations e.g. plc, Ltd, LLP)

For more information please email or phone 0131 285 1635​

3 October 2017

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