Public health focuses on the health of populations as a whole rather than on individuals. It deals with the behavioural, social and environmental factors that influence the health of populations. Public health has been defined as "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society". (Acheson 1988).
ISD produces a wide range of information that contributes to understanding the health of Scotland's population. This includes information on the composition of the population, on material deprivation, on deaths, on aspects of inequalities, on the main causes of hospital admission and on the use of primary care (GP) services.
ISD publishes information on some of the behaviours that influence health, including use of alcohol and illegal drugs. Much of the information on health and health behaviours in Scotland comes from the Scottish Health Survey. Information on the Scottish Health Survey is available on the ScotPHO website.
ISD also publishes information on smoking cessation services. In relation to infectious diseases and environmental health Health Protection Scotland is the leading agency in Scotland and their website should be consulted first for information on these topics.
ISD is a partner in the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO). ScotPHO brings together a number of agencies with interests in improving the health of the Scottish population, including NHS Health Scotland, Health Protection Scotland and National Records of Scotland — formerly the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS). ScotPHO aims to help people access and use the information they need to understand and improve Scotland's health and reduce health inequalities. The ScotPHO website includes sections on health behaviours, inequalities, the influence of life circumstances on health, information on the health of particular population groups, profiles of local health for small areas across Scotland and a range of publications on public health topics.