Università della Svizzera italiana – Institute of Communication and Health, Switzerland

The Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI) has been founded in 1996 and is part of the Swiss University System that includes Federal and Cantonal Universities. It is composed of 4 Faculties: Economics, Communication Sciences, Architecture and Informatics. USI employs more than 400 faculty members, and offers courses to almost 3,000 students coming from 30 different countries.

The Institute of Communication & Health (ICH) is one of the institutes at the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI) in Switzerland. The ICH, founded in 2007, is a heavily research-oriented institution that explores a relatively new and interdisciplinary research field  including the study and application of communication to inform and influence decisions of individuals and communities in order to improve health. Research at ICH comprises three focal areas at present, (1) health literacy and empowerment, (2) cultural factors in health promotion and (3) technologies and doctor–patient interaction (linking healthcare provider and patient/consumer).

The current project builds on-ongoing research on health promotion, patients’ empowerment and health literacy developed in the Institute of Communication and Health of the University of Lugano. Several of these projects have been supported by funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation as well as by other funding bodies. The health literacy of consumers was also central to the design of an Internet breast cancer risk assessment tool—project OPERA (Online personal education and risk assessment), financed by the King’s Fund and Cancer Backup, UK. In cooperation with Dr. James Mackay from University of College London (Institute of Human Genetics and Health), the applicants participated in the development and test of an assessment tool for genetic breast cancer risk (BRCA I and II) based on a protocol promulgated by the National Health Service UK that classifies people into risk categories and then prescribes particular services that will be made available.

Currently ICH is working on two projects in the field of patients’ empowerment and health literacy, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. In the first study, “Patient Empowerment and Health Literacy: Model Validation and Communication Strategies for Improving Chronic Pain Management” and “Judgment Skills in Health Literacy: Measurement and Role in Effective Patient Empowerment”. Results from previous studies in this area have, among other outlets, been published in Patient, Education & Counseling, International Journal of Public Health, Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety, Communication & Medicine and Studies in Communication Sciences.

For more information, visit the website of Università della Svizzera italiana: http://www.usi.ch/en/index.htm