‘A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit in his illnesses’ Hippocrates

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of 60 books attributed to the great ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, although not all of them are written directly by him.

Hippocratestree

Hippocrates’ plane tree, under which he taught his pupils

In the Corpus, a number of texts refer to the need for each person to take initiative for their own health. In the book ‘Regimen in Health’ the author says the following: 

‘A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit in his illnesses’

The Hippocratic doctor practised medicine close to the patient, listening carefully to their story and observing in great detail all aspects of signs and symptoms, as they developed over a period of time. Only then did he reach a conclusion as to the best treatment to restore health.

During treatment, the doctor continued to observe the patient and adapted his advice according to changes in the person’s clinical situation and environment.

Each person was given a personalised healthcare plan which involved adapting diet, physical activity and other aspects of daily life such as baths, sleep, natural exercises (singing, meditation) and habits.

In conjunction with this, the physician asked each person to take initiative for their own health. Engaging them in their own care was important for the success of the prescribed treatment, especially since it quite often lasted a long time.

The patient was asked to pay close attention to the reactions in their body.

This personalised approach and patient education and empowerment could help many people in our days, as diseases that are linked to our lifestyle (such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer) are increasing.

These diseases require a combined approach, which pays attention not only to drugs, but also to each person’s diet, physical activity and lifestyle in general.

This approach can only be successful if the patient is fully engaged with it and adopts it for a long time, if not for lifetime.