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A study conducted by the University of Bologna’s Department of Psychology and recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology sought to evaluate the environmental perception of a Pediatric Unit in parents of admitted children, before and after a mural was painted on the wall. Designed to improve the quality of hospital humanization, the walls of the Unit, where pediatric patients were admitted, were decorated with a large pictorial, thanks to the Juxi Project and cartoonist, Sally Galotti.

Usually white and sterile, (before) the walls of the entrance to the Pediatric Unit at M. Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, Italy were painted with murals portraying fairytales and cartoon characters in a natural landscape. (after)

Why does this matter?

In the 1970s and 1980s, priorities in healthcare design focused on technology. But the last 20 years has seen more welcoming and relaxing environments being developed. This shift in thinking has been the result of studies that revealed when special attention was given to the users’ needs, patients’ outcomes were positively influenced – from enhanced recovery to reduced hospital stays.

“Users” may include parents who play a critical role in helping children cope and stay calm, while they themselves are stressed from worrying about their children’s illness and hospital treatments.

So, can art really make a difference?


These findings confirmed that better environmental perception of parents is strongly related to the quality of humanization within the healthcare setting.

The charts below show how parents reacted to the smaller individual paintings as to compared the wall murals painted with naturalistic settings, cartoons and fun – but not too bold – colors. There were significant increases in positive reactions by parents including relaxed and pleasant feelings, as well as decreases in negativity, such as distress and gloominess.

With positive perceptions enhanced by as much as 15% and negativity reduced up to 10%, there is no denying that better humanizing of healthcare facilities is beneficial to all concerned. 

Especially the children!

Check out this article from The Columbian about an aquatic mural of sea creatures found at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Vancouver artist, Rebecca Anstine, has turned an otherwise drab and dingy stairwell into an adventure. These steps are used as a child’s challenge in the initial phase of rehabilitation. And now, the formerly scary concrete well offers colorful and curious motivation!

And this touching video from KGW out of Portland shows how art can come to life for the children.

“I’ll tell them, ‘Go find the penguin,'” said Trina Volk, an occupational therapist who supervises the rehab center.

The penguin is at the bottom of the flight of stairs.

For some kids, just saying “penguin” is a tough exercise. Now they can roam up and down the stairs, exercising muscles, touching the textured wall and naming marine animals.

Using art as a way to create a more humanized setting, gives healthcare facilities a canvas to tell their own story. How do you humanize your facility?


The Journal of Environmental Psychology publishes internationally contributed empirical studies and reviews of research that focus on the scientific study of the transactions and interrelationships between people and their physical surroundings.

For the complete report filled with statistics and helpful findings, please click here.