Rural Round-up: Preparations for Dubrovnik 2015 - WONCA World Rural Health conference

Regular rural round-up contributor, Dr Jo Scott-Jones, of New Zealand, writes on preparations for next year's only WONCA world conference - the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice 13th World Rural Health conference

John Wynn-Jones, chair of the Working Party on Rural Practice, recently visited the venue for next year’s 13th WONCA World Rural Health Conference and met with the host organisation KoHOM and their conference organisers Conventus Credo, after attending a very successful and well attended annual conference at Sibenik, on the Dalmatian Coast.

We believe that the conference will highlight rural family medicine in Croatia and across the Balkans. There is already considerable interest in the region. John met with rural doctors from some of the other countries of the former Yugoslavia, who will promote the conference in their own organisations.

Host Organisation

KoHOM is the largest and most successful family medicine organisation in Croatia. It has grown considerably in recent years and is at the forefront of change in the Croatian health system, promoting family medicine and family doctors.

The Organising and Scientific Committees are gearing up nicely for next year’s conference having regular meetings both face to face and online and they have wisely kept the organizing and scientific committees relatively small and workable, yet still representative of all the important sections of Croatian family medicine. An international advisory board is being established and the organisers are keen to learn from their colleagues around the world, especially those who have organized previous world conferences.

Host country

Croatia is a beautiful country with a long and glorious heritage. It covers 56,594 sq kilometers and has a population of 4.2 million. According to the United Nations, 46% of its population is rural.

It was the home of Andraijas Stamper, father of the World Health Organisation and author of the WHO constitution. Andraijas Stamper was a pioneer of rural health innovations in Croatia and China and wrote extensively on the subject. Croatia was a pioneer in family medicine and established the world’s first health centres and the first family medicine training programmes at the Andraijas Stamper University in Zagreb.

Croatia along with its neighbours in the former Yugoslavia was involved in a major conflict, which lasted from 1992-95. This war had a major impact on all the combatant countries but they have made great strides to recover and the region is gradually emerging from this nightmare. We hope to explore some of these issues during the conference, especially the impact of conflict, which has an impact on the lives of many rural people around the world


Dubrovnik is a World Heritage Centre, which was badly damaged in the war. It has been restored and is rightly described as one of the jewels of the Mediterranean coast on a par with Venice. The old walled baroque city is set on the Dalmatian coast surrounded by many islands and a backdrop of high mountains. It is really a “not to be missed” opportunity to visit.


The Valamar resort is situated in the modern part of the city overlooking the Adriatic Sea and only a 10-15 minutes bus ride from the old city. The complex includes 3,4, and 5 star hotels surrounding the conference facilities. It is built on a sloping hillside leading down to the sea. The organisers are also arranging cheaper affordable accommodation in the vicinity

It will provide an ideal venue for the conference and the modern conference facilities can accommodate over 1200 delegates. The venue has a large conference centre, which has hosted previous large medical conferences. Some of the breakout rooms are in the surrounding hotels which are a short walk from the main centre. It will be important for organisers and delegates alike to include a small amount of time in their schedules to move across the resort campus.

Opportunities for activities and travel

Dubrovnik has its own airport that connects to some of the large European hubs. It is close to both Montenegro and Bosnia. The coastline is ideal for sailing, diving and other activities.

There are many ancient medieval and baroque towns along the coastline that can be visited. The organisers tell me that they can organize a host of extra activities which will be posted on the website

Conference details

  • Pre and post meetings
We are in discussion with other organisations who are planning to hold pre-conference activities. The organisers are keen to discuss with any organisation that wishes to hold an event. John visited a very rural medical school at Foca in Bosnia and we are looking at organizing a post conference tour to the medical school in Foca and on to Sarajevo.

  • Dates
o Working party on rural practice meeting: April 14, 2015
o Main Conference: April 15-18, 2015

  • Registration
o Will be on line - watch this space!
o Concessions: The organisers are planning to provide bursary support for a number of delegates from low and middle income countries. They will be allocated preferentially to those who plan to present or provide posters and those wanting to apply should do so as soon as is possible as they will be limited.

  • Draft Programme
o Themes and sub-themes - Breaking down barriers: Bringing people together
o There will be a full scientific programme, social and cultural programme and it should be a great event!