A message from our Chief Executive, Vinny Smith
In November 2023 I celebrated my 8-year anniversary with Meningitis Research Foundation (where has that time gone?) and I honestly can’t remember a year with so much packed into it. There is so much to be thankful for.
On 5th October, World Meningitis Day exceeded all our hopes and expectations, securing activity in 126 countries and seeing our wonderful Confederation of Meningitis Organisation (CoMO) members and Meningitis Research Foundation Ambassadors and supporters raising awareness around the world. Students from the National Academy for Learning (NAFL) in India created an ingenious and original meningitis rap that stole my heart.
Vinny at the World Health Organization’s Technical Task Force meeting for the Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030, Jordan, June 2023. Left to right: Professor Brian Greenwood (Technical Task Force Chair, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Dr Marie-Pierre Preziosi (WHO secretariat), Vinny Smith (Chief Executive) and Professor Samba Sow (Technical Task Force Chair Co-Chair, Centre pour les Vaccines en Développement (CVD- Mali)
So too the many new additions to our collections of personal stories – Meningitis in your words – that reminds me every day why our work is necessary.
CoMO continued to grow in all regions of the world, reaching over 130 members in more than 50 countries by the end of 2023.
2023 saw the development of the world’s first national plans for meningitis. Plans aren’t usually the most exciting things, but these are different. They will chart the path from a global ambition to defeat meningitis right down to what’s happening in communities around the world to achieve it. Without them no change will happen. And we’re determined to make sure it does.
In August, with partners at Sanofi and with CoMO members, we launched the meningitis flag, which will be used as a new symbol for the meningitis movement. Having been co-created by CoMO members from ten countries and five continents, there will be much more to come on this in 2024 too.
And, for the first time in several years, we were able to invest in new research into MenB in the UK.
We hosted both the CoMO member conference and the Meningitis Research Foundation scientific conference this year. In June, the CoMO member conference saw a wealth of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, with sessions on best practices for meningitis educational material development; working with indigenous communities; and handling vaccine hesitancy from parents.
Wrapping up the year, in November, we hosted our international research conference (the first in-person one since the pandemic). It cemented this as the world’s leading forum for meningitis research, with more than 200 delegates and 46 speakers from seventeen countries at the British Museum in London. We heard from the world’s leading scientific and medical experts as they shared the latest advances and discussed today’s challenges for meningitis prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support. The launch of our bursary scheme also enabled healthcare professional CoMO members to attend (amongst other recipients), widening access to those in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.
How to top this in 2024?
We’re going to start with more promotion of the meningitis flag, culminating around the same time as the Paralympics in the summer.
We’ll support the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch the investment case for the Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030 and help secure more funding to deliver its goals.
We’ll reinvigorate our UK Ambassadors programme, thanks to new funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.
Research will begin in Nigeria and Chad into the genome pathway, from person to policy.
We’re going to reimagine our digital presence, so it is easier to collaborate with us and find the information you need, including launching a revamped website and Meningitis Progress Tracker.
We’ll keep supporting CoMO members and growing its membership. We will continue to be there for the people who need our Support Services, whether that’s on the phone, online chat, email or social media, so they don’t face meningitis alone.
World Meningitis Day will continue to be our flagship awareness event. And, at the same time, we’ll develop our next strategy for success, for 2025 to 2030.
This is only possible because of our incredible supporters and partners. It is only possible because people are generous with their time and are prepared to share their stories to raise awareness. We continue to be committed to defeating a disease that is still estimated to kill over 240,000 people each year. To you all, and in their memory, a very happy new year and a big thank you for your ongoing support in the year ahead.
Chief Executive, Meningitis Research Foundation and the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO)