NHS Health Scotland

David L Pattison
Head of International Development
+44 131 536 55 59
+44 131 536 55 01

NHS Health Scotland
Woodburn House
Canaan Lane
GB-Edinburgh EH10 4SG



NHS Health Scotland is the national agency for improving Scotland's health. We are a 'special health board' part of the structure of the National Health Service in Scotland (external link)and our strategic objectives are to: 

  • enhance understanding of Scotland's health and how to improve it
  • contribute our expertise to policy-makers
  • lead the delivery of health improvement programmes
  • disseminate evidence, learning and good practice
  • establish practical arrangements for working with NHS Boards and other key partners

 Our staff are drawn from a broad range of professional backgrounds. These include: health promotion, public health, medicine, nursing, the behavioural sciences, research specialists, training managers, topic specialists, health information specialists, librarians, information managers, publishing specialists, graphic designers, advertising and PR professionals, project managers, administrators, HR managers and finance managers.

The organisation has four directorates: Equalities and Planning; Programme Design and Delivery; Public Health Sciences and Resource Management. NHS Health Scotland also includes the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives. Together we provide professional leadership and support for specific aspects of the health improvement effort in Scotland.

Health in Country

Scotland’s health problems have been well documented with high mortality and morbidity statistics in areas such as coronary heart disease, specific cancers, obesity, alcohol-related problems and mental health.  There is a significant link between these problems and socio-economic status and yet the relationship between health and wealth is complex and there is much debate in Scotland as to the factors and mechanisms behind this relationship.
There are significant signs of improvement in health in Scotland.  For example, people in Scotland are living longer than ever before.  With the exceptions of the First and Second World Wars, average life expectancy for Scottish males has increased steadily from around 50 years in 1910 to 75 yrs years in 2008. Deaths from coronary heart disease in males have been falling for a generation and this reduction has become more substantial in recent years. Female life expectancy has increased even more and now stands at 79.9 yrs years.  Infant mortality rates have declined in Scotland to an extraordinary degree, with the rate being 5.7 per 1000 births failing to reach their first birthday, compared with 130 children a century ago and 20 children only 30 years ago.

Life Expectancy varies considerably across Scotland. The Local Government Council area with the highest life expectancy for men and women was East Dunbartonshire (78.0 years and 82.5 years respectively) this was 7.3 years more for men and 5.3 years more for women than Glasgow City which had the lowest life expectancy for both genders. The recent decline in death rates from common conditions such as cardiovascular disease has also been more rapid among the more affluent.  Thus, despite the overall improvements, the less affluent sections of the Scottish population are falling behind and considerable work is progressing in Scotland in a whole government approach to reverse this trend.
To ensure that the health of children and young people continues to be addressed within the education environment, Scotland introduced the “Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007.” (external link) In addition the Scottish Government have introduced ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ (external link) which is the new approach in education for children and young people from 3-18 years.

The devolution of political power in matters relating to both health and education and the changing political landscape of proportional representation have been positive forces supportive of innovation in Scotland. Another positive has been the existence of a national health education/promotion agency funded by government in the National Health Service for over 35 years and the education authority structure has only changed once in the last 30 years.  There has also been continuity of key research and development work such as in the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study and the work in health promoting schools.
We are optimistic in Scotland about making continued improvements in health but we are also realistic about the importance of having supportive strategies at a European and global level.  WHO has had success in leading member states, for example in the tobacco control arena, towards a supportive health-promoting environment.  Scotland like Ireland and Italy have followed this European lead in developing tobacco control legislation, Scotland was the first country within the UK to introduce Smoke Free legislation. We believe strongly in collaborating with other European states through organizations such as EuroHealthNet and the international Union for Health Promotion and Education.

Projects & Programmes

Find out about NHS Health Scotland's key aims and work areas (external link) that we are working on to improve Scotland's health. The following is a summary of the international collaborations that we have:

  • WHO Collaborating Centre. NHS Health Scotland is a collaborating centre in health promotion and public health development with the Copenhagen and Venice offices of the World Health Organization. There is a strong emphasis on work to support the WHO Child and Adolescent Health Strategy; the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health and providing technical support to WHO and where appropriate Member States. As part of this work The Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh provide the co-ordinating centre for the Health Behaviour of School aged Children (HBSC) study (external link) across Europe. NHS Health Scotland contributes to the strategic development of health promoting schools in the European region of WHO.

Contact person david.pattison@nhs.net

  • The European Network of Health Promoting Schools. Health Scotland are members of the WHO task-force producing a new resource on indicators of effectiveness in health promoting schools, publication is scheduled for December 2006.

Contact vbr@euro.who.int.

  • Health Scotland developed two publications on mental health and stigma in 2007/8 in association with national partners and WHO regional Office for Europe. One of these set the broad context for this work and the other is a practical resource on running initiatives and campaigns on mental health and stigma. In 2009 Scottish Government published “ Towards a Mentally Flourishing Scotland: Policy and Action Plan 2009-2011” (external link) This policy and action plan outlines the Government's plans for mental health improvement for the period 2009-2011.

Contact: monica.merson@nhs.net or wendy.halliday@nhs.net

  • WHO/HBSC Forum: NHS Health Scotland has participated in the planning task force for all 3 forums which have taken place and in addition have provided financial and technical support to WHO during each forum. The first forum was held in Florence in March 2006 and focused on the social determinants of young people’s health in relation to nutrition and physical activity. The second took place in Viareggion in 2007, the focus was on mental and emotional health of young people, both were organised by the Venice office of WHO. The third took place in Siena in 2009 and the theme was Socio environmentally determined health inequities among children and adolescents, this was organized by the Rome office. All three forums drew on the experience of the HBSC research

Contact person, Forum 1&2; Theadora Koller: thk@ihd.euro.who.int

News & Publications

Find out more about NHS Health Scotland (external link). 

Access NHS Health Scotland current publications (external link). This section contains details and online versions of Health Scotland publications. You can search our publications by title, type of resource, language and subject.

View research publications (external link) and evaluations of the national health improvement programme (external link).

You might also be interested in our quarterly newsletter for partners and stakeholders (external link) which is called All In Good Health.

  • If you're interested in news about health in Scotland, visit NHS Scotland's media monitor (external link) which lists news from a variety of sources. You can sign up to get automatic updates.

Useful Links



EuroHealthNet illustrates the strong links which exist between health, poverty and social exclusion
European Quality of Life Survey 2012
See video