ECCO Country Member Profiles: Croatia
Name of group: Croatian Society of IBD, Croatian Medical Assocation & IBD Section, Croatian Society of Gastroenterology
Number of active members: 70
Number of meetings per year: 4
Name of president and secretary: Željko Krznarić and Marko Brinar
National Representatives: Željko Krznarić and Ante Tonkić
Joined ECCO in: 2001 (Boris Vucelic, ECCO Honorary Member, was one of the founders of ECCO)
Incidence of IBD in the country: Zagreb City and Area 2010: UC 3.3/105, CD 3.3/10
Primorsko-Goranska County, Croatia, 2000–2004: UC 4.3/105, CD 7.0/10
Vukovarsko-Srijemska County, Croatia, 2001–2010: UC 3.5/105, CD 0.95/10
Today we are seeking and collecting new data since we are aware of a significant increase in the incidence of IBD during the last decade.
What has changed since your society became an ECCO Country Member?
As a part of the ECCO Story, from the very beginning we have been trying to grow together. Starting as a small group of IBD enthusiasts, ECCO has become a strong and powerful professional and scientific society. Such success has had a huge impact on the IBD Community in Croatia, which has become more visible and influential, with improving standards of care for IBD patients.
A significant step was taken when both ECCO and our Group started to include nurses, young physicians, researchers and patients in our regular activities. The Croatian Society of IBD, Croatian Medical Assocation was established in 2019.
What are the benefits to you of being an ECCO Country Member?
Among all the benefits deriving from ECCO Country Membership, networking occupies the first position as it assists in the dissemination of professional and scientific information. Educational activities increase the level of knowledge not only in the Croatian IBD Community but also in the general population.
ECCO Guidelines have increased the quality of diagnosis and treatment, and we are now in a better position when talking to insurance companies and hospital administration.
Of course, in light of all of this, we are able to provide better care to our patients.
Is your society making use of the ECCO Guidelines?
Croatian National Representatives have been very active during the preparation of ECCO Guidelines and also in the implementation of new ones. We have not translated ECCO Guidelines into the Croatian language but use them as a cornerstone for educational activities and the development of Croatian guidelines.
Have you developed links with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?
Yes, we have developed links with other countries all around Europe and have participated in various international projects and educational activities.
- Have you developed research projects with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?
Yes, we are actively collaborating with ECCO’s Epidemiological Committee (EpiCom), through which we are following two inception cohorts of IBD patients. We have also been collaborating with ECCO’s Clinical Research Committee (ClinCom) and are continuously collecting real-life data for epidemiological studies. Furthermore, we have been participating in validation of the Lemann Index, which assesses cumulative bowel damage in CD patients. Finally, our centre is active in investigating novel biomarkers of inflammation in IBD in collaboration with Nordic Bioscience from Denmark.
- Have you developed educational activities with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?
Yes, the Croatian Group is very active in organising educational activities (workshops, congresses, hands-on training). On many occasions we have invited international guest speakers from various countries, including Austria, Italy, Israel, UK, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
- Has your country been involved in a fellow exchange through ECCO?
Yes, fellow exchange is now a part of the regular training for young specialists.
What are your main areas of research interest?
The Croatian Group was active in epidemiological studies such as the "Incidence of IBD". Besides epidemiology we have been included in clinical projects on radiological biomarkers of cumulative damage and inflammation, serological biomarkers, nutrition and microbiota. We are involved in ClinCom studies collecting real-world data on biological therapy, surgical treatment etc.
Does your centre or country have a common IBD database or bio bank?
Several centres in Croatia have their own IBD database but there is none on a national level.
In the last three years, UHC Zagreb has developed a bio bank, which is currently used to investigate novel biomarkers of disease activity in IBD; it is planned to expand this bio bank.
What are your most prestigious/interesting past and ongoing projects?
Historically, education in IBD has been our most successful project at the national level. The Croatian Team has hosted ECCO Educational Workshops three times (Zagreb in 2007, Opatija in 2011 and Dubrovnik in 2016).
“Minute for IBD” is a project of the Zagreb IBD Team and Zagreb University on microbiota in the IBD
“Mediterranean diet, and IBD epidemiology” is a project of the Zagreb Team and students of nutritional science.
Other projects include:
- ESPEN Workshop on Nutrition in IBD [2019, 2020 (virtual)]
- Collaboration with a group of scientists from Nordic Bioscience, Denmark in investigating novel biomarkers of inflammation
- Obesity in IBD – a pilot project at Zagreb University Hospital
- Pharmacogenomics and thiopurine therapy
Our younger colleagues are also active in the field of primary sclerosing cholangitis and GI cancer and the epidemiology of GI cancer in IBD.
Which ECCO Projects/Activities is the group currently involved in?
The Croatian Group is currently involved in EpiCom and ClinCom projects.
What are your aims for the future?
- Improve the quality of the education, including hands-on training for young physicians
- Work on public and GP awareness as they are lacking
- Urgently increase activities in clinical and scientific research
- Create a national IBD database
How do you see ECCO helping you to fulfil these aims?
ECCO should stratify support for different clinical and scientific projects taking into account national and regional specificity, including GDP.
What do you use ECCO for? Network? Congress? How do you use the things/services that ECCO has to offer?
We are trying to make use of the full spectrum of opportunities offered by ECCO.
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