ECCO Country Member Profiles: Croatia

Željko Krznarić and Ante Tonkic, ECCO National Representatives, Croatia

Croatia   Croatia

Name of group: IBD Section, Croatian Society of Gastroenterology
Number of active members:  65
Number of meetings per year: 2-3
President: Željko Krznarić
Secretary: Brankica Mijandruŝić-Sinĉić
National Representatives: Zeljko Krznaric and Ante Tonkic
Joined ECCO in: 2001 (Boris Vucelic was one of the founders of ECCO) 
Incidence of IBD in the country (if available): 
     Primorsko-goranska County, Croatia, 2000–2004: UC 4.3/105, CD 7.0/105 
     Zagreb City and Zagreb Area, 2010: UC 3.3/105, CD 3.3/105

What has changed since your society became an ECCO Country Member?

Ever since the inception of our group, and as a part of the successful ECCO Story, we have all been trying to develop together. Although it started as a small group of IBD enthusiasts, ECCO has since become a strong and powerful professional and scientific society. This success has had a huge impact on the IBD community in Croatia, which has become more visible and influential, with increasing standards of care for IBD patients.

A significant step was taken when ECCO and our own group began to include nurses, young physicians, researchers and patients in the organisations’ regular activities.

What are the benefits to you of being an ECCO Country Member?

Networking should perhaps take pride of place when talking about the benefits that ECCO Country Membership offers, as it results in greater dissemination of professional and scientific information. Educational activities are increasing the level of knowledge not only in the Croatian IBD community but also in the general population.

ECCO Guidelines improve the quality of diagnostic and treatments and are putting us in a better position in talks with insurance companies and hospital administration.

Of course, the consequence of the various benefits is that we are able to provide better care to our patients.

Is your society making use of the ECCO Guidelines?

Yes. Croatian National Representatives have been very active during the preparation of guidelines and in their subsequent implementation. We have not translated guidelines into the Croatian language but we use them as a cornerstone for educational activities and preparation of Croatian guidelines.

Have you developed links with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?

Yes, we have developed links not only with neighbouring countries in South-East Europe but also all around Europe.

  • Have you developed research projects with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?

Yes, we are active in the EpiCom Group and we are looking to join new projects

  • Have you developed educational activities with other countries through your ECCO Country Membership?

Yes, the Croatian Group is very active in South-East Europe, which leads to various common educational activities (workshops, congresses, hands-on training events).

  • Has your country been involved in a fellow exchange through ECCO?

Yes, and this has to become a part of regular training for young specialists.

What are your main areas of research interest?

The Croatian Group is active in the ECCO EpiCom study on the incidence of IBD.

Besides epidemiology we have been involved in several projects on IBD genetics, pharmacogenomics, nutrition, surgery, microbiota and biosimilars.

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 still no national database.

In the last few years we have made significant steps in combining the data and in making it more useful. Unfortunately we have no bio bank as yet.                                                

What are your most prestigious/interesting past and ongoing projects?

Historically, education in IBD is our most successful project at the national level. A Croatian team has hosted ECCO Workshops on three occasions (Zagreb 2007, Opatija 2011 and Dubrovnik 2016).

The Zagreb IBD Team and members of Zagreb University are currently undertaking a project on microbiota in IBD. A further project of the Zagreb Team and students of nutrition science concerns the Mediterranean diet and IBD epidemiology. Moreover, a pilot project at Zagreb University Hospital is addressing obesity in IBD. Research is also being conducted into pharmacogenomics and thiopurine therapy.

Our younger colleagues are 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 in?

The Croatian Group is currently involved in the EpiCom Project.

What are your aims for the future?

We need even more high-quality education, including more hands-on training for young physicians. Public and GP awareness of IBD is an issue that needs to be addressed. There is also an urgent need to increase activities in clinical and scientific research. At the same time we should be building a national IBD database, including a bio bank.

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 use ECCO in diverse ways, exploiting the full spectrum of provided opportunities.

Posted in ECCO News, ECCO Country Member Profiles, Volume 12, Issue 4