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The Art of Healing

Date: 08/06/2022

How to put patients at the center and provide holistic support

by Maria Paola Chiesi, Shared Value & Sustainability Head of Chiesi Group

A trip to the emergency room is never a pleasant experience. Being a parent rushing to the ER with a young child, who may not understand the concepts of illness or medicine, of injuries or healing, can be for both sides as scary as the reason that led them there.

In a situation like this, it’s supposedly small things that can make a big difference. Getting lost in a beautiful, enchanted forest for example, looking at butterflies, kites, hot air balloons, and a blue sky ripping through the ceiling, will make you feel a little better. Because we probably all experienced it at one time: healing takes more than just good medicine and a good doctor.


This is why Chiesi engaged in the art project “Ospedali Dipinti” (Painting Hospitals) and sponsored a redesign for the pediatric ER in the Hospital of Parma. Dedicated to changing the image of hospitals, the Italian painter Silvio Irilli has transformed the entry, hallways, ambulatories, and rooms into colorful, cheerful spaces. Designed to bring a smile to the faces of children and their parents in times of great worry, or at least for a few moments take their minds off what they’re in that place for.


“I love transforming hospital wards into emotional environments: because before being patients, first of all they’re people”

Silvio Irilli, Artist and Founder of Ospedali Dipinti

The therapeutic effects of art on individual well-being have been chronicled for centuries[1]. Some people might dismiss it as simply an add-on, which has little place in a modern, technically focused healthcare system. But this is far from being the case[2]. Recent research indicates that any sort of creative expression positively affects outcomes and can help maintain immune systems while elevating moods, reducing stress and blood pressure. Aesthetically pleasing surroundings contribute to patients’ well-being by influencing their emotional response to the situation and environment. People who are exposed to art in the hospital heal quicker and have a better overall experience.[3]


As a source of entertainment and distraction, art can have a significant impact especially for pediatric patients.[4] It is a key in children’s hospitalizations to gain or maintain a positive frame of mind. Supporting youngsters navigate the often daunting and intimidating processes in an ER will help banish their fears and lead, even parents, to live the condition in a less stressful way.


“People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body, too. Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour, and light, we do know this, that they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients are actual means of recovery.”5

Florence Nightingale in her Notes on Nursing (1860)

The art project by “Ospedali Dipinti” is part of an evolution to further strengthen a patient centricity approach in modern medicine. It is also part of our company code of shared value. Adopting a holistic perspective on health care, artists, hospitals, and companies around the globe have set out to embed empathy in each of the processes that mark this unpleasant experience.


Furthermore, these kinds of activities reinforce the engagement with local communities where we operate to be a force of good for society.

Paintings will not fix a broken bone or will cure cancer. But incorporating art into the design of hospitals makes a significant contribution to improving the lives, health, and well-being of patients, as well as those who work or visit there. It is one step closer to more empathetic and personalised health care.




[1] Cork R. The healing presence of art: A history of western art in hospitals. London: Yale University Press; 2012.


[2] Arts Council England & Department of Health (2007). A prospectus for arts and health. London: Arts Council of England.https://www.artshealthresources.org.uk/docs/a-prospectus-for-arts-and-health/


[3] Crossick G., Kaszynska P. Understanding the value of arts & culture: The AHRC cultural value project. 2016:1–204. http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/documents/publications/cultural-value-project-final-report/


Ulrich & Gilpin (2003) Healing Arts: Nutrition for the Soul



[4] Kate Bishop, The Role of Art in a Paediatric Healthcare Environment from Children's and Young People's Perspectives, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 38, 2012,