Our first virtual Croatian Cochrane Symposium!

Cochrane Croatia - Our first virtual Symposium!

Like many events during 2020, this year’s Croatian Cochrane Symposium was held online, on Tuesday, November 3rd. A year ago the symposium was planned as a face-to-face  event to be held in June 2020 and on the topic of public health; it was as if we knew the pandemic would  fit appropriately in the agenda.

Despite not meeting in person, we had great pleasure of hosting dear Cochrane friends, the Cochrane Library Editor-in-Chief, Karla Soarez Weiser and the Director of Cochrane Nordic, Karsten Juhl Jorgensen. 

It was the perfect chance to hear first-hand on how Cochrane responded to the challenges of this pandemic, by recruiting all its resources, both people power and technological support, in providing rapid and reliable responses to emerging high-priority questions. By that Cochrane allowed a better understanding of the methods for preventing the spread of the virus, coping with the pandemic, and understanding the progression of the disease and the effectiveness of available treatment approaches. 

Cochrane continues to do so, as all its systematic reviews (SRs) related to COVID-19 are ‘living SRs’, meaning that their findings are being updated as new evidence becomes available. Apart from that, Cochrane made its SRs, special collections, and clinically focused summaries freely available to all.

During his brilliant presentations, and the workshop at the end of the symposium, Karsten shared his knowledge and experience in investigating the need for and appropriateness of screening programs, as well as his experience in cooperating with policy makers in Denmark in forming public-health policies aimed at providing further development, and achieving cost-effective and sustainable health care system. 

As if in some detective game, Karsten lead us through all the hidden nooks and crannies of the updated systematic review on mammography screening, and pointed out the need to investigate the leads in the included studies almost forensically. He showed us that “hard-core” methodology can be fun, and emphasized what the final outcome of this should be, and that is the people’s wellbeing.

We had with us representatives from the national and local Departments of Public Health, who, in these difficult times and despite numerous duties in fighting the virus, joined us with their interesting lectures on topics like the use of evidence in planning public-health measures and national programs, challenges of vaccinating children, debunking the myths on MMR vaccine, as well as about Cochrane evidence in public health and Covid-19. We are therefore very thankful to Ivana Pavić Šimetin, Deputy Director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Željka Karin, Director at the Department of Public Health of the Split-Dalmatia County, Radenka Šamija, neuropediatrician from the University Hospital Split, and to Milka Brzović, Ivana Marasović Sušnjara and Anamarija Jurčev Savičević from the Department of Public Health of the Split-Dalmatia County  for finding the time to join us and sharing their experiences on working in public health. 

We are also thankful to our colleagues from the Department of Public Health at the University of Split School of Medicine, Iris Jerončić, and Ivana Kolčić for adding to the diversity of topics. Iris spoke about the challenges of reducing alcohol consumption among youth in Croatia and Ivana about the importance of healthy nutrition. The focus of the round table was on how best to implement public health evidence in the community, something our colleague Shelly Pranić nicely called - a million dollar question. 

However, what most of our guests agreed on was that implementation of the evidence in the field of public health requires adjustment to the context in which it is implemented. It was concluded, therefore, that it is necessary to carefully monitor the needs in a community, balance feasibility of an intervention, its cost-effectiveness, as well as the expected outreach of the effect. This is the experience, as Karla Soarez Weiser nicely pointed out, that despite all the logic, knowledge and  evidence we have available, actually makes us humble in our work.

Interest in the symposium was considerable, attested to by the fact that there were 177 registered attendees which speaks in favour of the variety of topics that were covered, from screening programs, vaccination, healthy nutrition to the application of evidence when creating public-health policies. Especially in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, these topics are extremely interesting to the wider community. The feedback that we have received is positive, and the need for more such events has been emphasised.

The symposium was recorded and the recording will soon be available on our web page.

Tina Poklepović Peričić

Co-Director Cochrane Croatia