“Healing Words”, the third edition of the Culture and Health course

At the heart of IBSA’s mission is the desire to contribute to improving people’s quality of life, beyond therapy.

Promoted by the IBSA Foundation for scientific research, the project Culture and Health goes precisely in this direction and is aimed at showing, according to scientific criteria, how arts and culture can be considered actual healing treatments. The course includes several activities: the website, research projects, thematic conferences and a university course at the University of Italian Switzerland (USI) in Lugano. Launched for the first time in 2021, the course opened a new and highly topical teaching trend, designed to investigate the benefits between “experiencing” culture and the person’s state of health.


Parole che curano

The third edition of the course – conceived and promoted by IBSA Foundation, the Culture Division of the City of Lugano and USI, in addition for this year to the artistic collaboration of LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura – was held in 2023. The title of this year’s edition was Parole che curano (“Healing Words”): with the coordination of Prof. Enzo Grossi, personalities from the world of science and culture discussed topics that connect words to medicine and the well-being of people.

The seven lessons, open to the public, were held from October 16 to December 11, and were aimed at students of the Faculties of Biomedical Sciences and Communication, Culture and Society at USI.

By intercepting some topics emerged on the international scene, in this third edition we decided to delve into the field of Medical Humanities and Narrative Medicine, to analyse in detail how narrative skills can help healthcare professionals to build an effective therapeutic project”, underlined Silvia Misiti, Director of IBSA Foundation for scientific research allowing us to further broaden our view of the relation between culture and health”.


The lectures of this third edition of Culture and Health explored the role that words, art and culture in general play within the physical and mental well-being of the individual and the community, thus entering the field of the so-called medical humanities, defined by Guenda Bernegger and Roberto Malacrida as “cultural sciences of medicine”.

The “healing words” are those of the patients who tell their story to their doctor, thus becoming narrative medicine; they are also the words of a book, which are transformed into parental reading as a support for neurodevelopment in pediatric age, or as a tool for the prevention of cognitive impairment at an advanced age. Yet other words are those of an individual who writes about him/herself – in other words expressive writing – and those of the people who become actors on stage, in order to share their emotions (theatre-therapy).

Each meeting opened with the contribution of an international guest, and continued with a debate together with discussants expert on the subject, always alternated with the touching interpretations of readings of written texts by a playwright, Riccardo Favaro – who reworked the pages of literary authors and patients – and performed by actors and actresses selected by LAC Lugano. Even more than previous years, the 2023 edition of the course saw a huge participation. Recordings of all lessons will soon be available on the IBSA Foundation’s YouTube channel.