HEALTH IN THE MIRROR: THE FIRST RESULTS PUBLISHED ON “FRONTIERS” JOURNAL
“We are proud to present the first results of the research started in 2013 on our ‘Health in the Mirror’ project”. This can be read on the Facebook page of the innovative project, sponsored by the San Raffaele Hospital in collaboration with the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, conceived by Drs. Valentina Di Mattei, psychologist and university researcher at the Faculty of Psychology, and Giorgia Mangili, responsible for gynecological oncology.
“Health in the Mirror” arises from the conviction that medical excellence and quality of care should lead to full recovery of the physical and psychological well-being of the person. It is a journey to rediscover the smile and self-confidence dedicated to women in cancer care, to provide concrete support in the management of the side effects of therapies, to restore the quality of life, to regain vitality, femininity and desire to stay with others. The results, published for the first time on the international scientific journal Frontiers, show that our intervention is effective in favoring a better quality of life and promoting the psychological well-being of patients undergoing care at our Institute.
In this interview Dr. Valentina Di Mattei and Dr. Chiara Brombin, a researcher at Statistics at the Faculty of Psychology and a member of the CUSSB staff (University Centre for Statistics in the Biomedical Sciences), tell us about the important achievement.
AN INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDY
Dr. Di Mattei tells: “Since the beginning we have thought of enhancing the initiative of ‘Health in the Mirror’ by associating it with a scientific research project; this is a very unconventional project for a hospital, so we wanted to give it some thickness and a substance since its start, even from a scientific point of view. The variables chosen, after a careful analysis of the literature, and evaluated in the study were:
- anxiety and depression (usually present in patients with oncological pathologies);
- body image (being a project dedicated to the aesthetic side effects of anticancer therapies we wanted to evaluate the image of the self);
- quality of life (one of the dimensions always analyzed in health psychology, especially with regard to hospitalized patients)”.
Outcomes of interest were measured on a sample of 88 cancer patients, all recruited at the San Raffaele Hospital, in three different times: during a preliminary interview with the psychologist, at the end of the third termination of the cycle and at a distance of three months from participation in the project.
The objective of the study was to evaluate whether and how these outcomes were modified over time and whether or not socio-demographic (eg age, marital status, occupation, presence of children) and clinical (such as possible recurrences, type of diagnosis, psychological treatments received) characteristic play a role in modulating them.
The results obtained are extremely encouraging: “Participating in our program resulted in a marked improvement in the psychological variables measured. Not only did we notice a significant reduction in anxiety and depressive symptoms and problems associated with body image, but also an increase in self-esteem levels; this suggests that participation in this project could facilitate better adaptation to disease and oncological treatment. Even in the most rosy prospects, we would not have expected such beautiful results, and this was possible thanks to the multi- and interdisciplinary features typical of our University”.
A PROJECT THAT COULD ARISE ONLY IN SAN RAFFAELE
“I always say that “Health in the Mirror” could only be born here: our University teaches first that the patient must be cured comprehensively and, to do so, it is necessary to integrate the skills of different disciplines. In my opinion – continues Dr. Di Mattei – this is the great strength of our University: to study and work in a stimulating and unique international environment, composed of so many voices, by professional researchers who make their skills in a great collaboration perspective. Last but not least, the University is part of the San Donato Group, an excellent hospital facility that helps to create a solid clinical and research context”.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF STATISTICS: THE IMPORTANCE OF CUSSB
“Health in the Mirror” has involved doctors, make-up artists, image experts, psychologists… all of the highest-level professionals to give the patients maximum quality. “In the same way – and even more – we have sought the support and expertise of experts in Statistics”. Dr. Brombin says: “I am very pleased to have contributed, with my statistical expertise, to such an innovative and modern project as ‘Health in the Mirror’.
This collaboration and the excellent scientific result obtained show how important it is to initiate interdisciplinary studies that allow dialogue between psychologists and experts on quantitative statistical methods so as to reinforce the methodology of research in psychological studies and help to evaluate outcome of interest, measure the effectiveness of an intervention, understand the phenomenon being studied, even in the presence of complex relationships among the investigated variables. This project was the result of a true teamwork between two groups of excellence in the field of psychology and statistics involving a large part of the CUSSB staff (and in particular the colleague Dr. Cugnata, researcher at the Faculty of Psychology); it also represents an excellent example and result of integration between teaching and research, since graduate students in Psychology have been involved in the project for their Degree theses and several research grants, for UniSR students and researchers, have been obtained”.
For over ten years, the CUSSB represents a meeting point in San Raffaele for experts from different disciplines, from psychology to biomedical clinical sciences, from neuroscience to genetics, becoming a reference for both training and the interdisciplinary methodological insights from which many high-level scientific publications have emerged. The first biostatistics center in Italy grown in direct contact with a hospital, CUSSB is also a place for young statisticians who want to focus on biostatistics, as well as an international center with a vivid activity of organizing conferences and schools, being an affiliated seat of the International Biometric Society (Italian-Region), chaired by Prof. Di Serio (Full Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at UniSR and Director and Founder of CUSSB).
The close collaboration between psychology and medicine is witnessed by the authors of the two UniSR Faculties: Prof. Lucio Sarno and Dr. Valentina Di Mattei, Letizia Carnelli, Paola Taranto, Chiara Brombin and Federica Cugnata for the Faculty of Psychology; Prof. Massimo Candiani for the Faculty of Medicine.