Health care practices in ancient Greece: The Hippocratic ideal

J Med Ethics Hist Med. 2014 Mar 15;7:6. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Asclepius and Hippocrates focused medical practice on the natural approach and treatment of diseases, highlighting the importance of understanding the patient's health, independence of mind, and the need for harmony between the individual, social and natural environment, as reflected in the Hippocratic Oath. The aim of this study was to present the philosophy of care provision in ancient Greece and to highlight the influence of the Hippocratic ideal in modern health care practices. A literature review was carried out using browser methods in international databases. According to the literature, "healthy mind in a healthy body" was the main component of the Hippocratic philosophy. Three main categories were observed in the Hippocratic provision of care: health promotion, interventions on trauma care, and mental care and art therapy interventions. Health promotion included physical activity as an essential part of physical and mental health, and emphasized the importance of nutrition to improve performance in the Olympic Games. Interventions on trauma care included surgical practices developed by Hippocrates, mainly due to the frequent wars in ancient Greece. Mental care and art therapy interventions were in accordance with the first classification of mental disorders, which was proposed by Hippocrates. In this category music and drama were used as management tools in the treatment of illness and in the improvement of human behavior. The role of Asclepieion of Kos was highlighted which clearly indicates a holistic health care model in care provision. Finally, all practices regarded detailed recordings and evaluation of information within the guidelines. The Hippocratic philosophy on health care provision focused on the holistic health care model, applying standards and ethical rules that are still valid today.

Keywords: Hippocratic medicine; ancient Greek medicine; health care interventions; health care provision.