Defeating meningitis by 2030: a roadmap

March 2019

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In February 2019, Meningitis Research Foundation joined experts from around the world in a meeting at Wilton Park. This three day event was intended to define the next steps required to defeat meningitis by 2030. In this blog, our Chief Executive Vinny Smith explains why this meeting was so important.

Search for quotes about “planning” online and you’ll find endless lists of people extolling the benefits of a good old fashioned plan. My favourites include:

  • 'A goal without a plan is just a wish' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • 'By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.' - Benjamin Franklin
  • 'Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.' - Peter F. Drucker

They remind me that plans are pointless unless people decide to and then do act on them.

Last week, I spent three days planning at Wilton Park with incredible people from around the world and it was exhilarating. I mean it. United behind a common goal to defeat meningitis by 2030, more than 50 representatives from major global health organisations, academia, civil society, industry, health ministries and funders forensically and systematically planned the first ever draft roadmap for meningitis. We quizzed it and each other relentlessly. Are the right things in there? Have we forgotten anything? How realistic is it? How will it be funded? When will each part happen? Discussions spread from breakfast into the evening.

All this effort is necessary because the challenge is enormous. Meningitis and neonatal sepsis together are the second biggest infectious killers of children under age 5 around the world, still killing more children in this age group than malaria. Though there has been great progress - a 21% reduction in annual deaths since 1990 - this still lags far behind the progress for other diseases such as tetanus (84%). Around 20% of people who experience bacterial meningitis will go have life-changing after effects that can result in disability. In low income countries that figure is far, far higher.

L-R: Imran Mirza, UNICEF; Adam Cohen, World Health Organization; Anne von Gottberg, National Institute for Communicable Diseases; Priscilla Ibekwe, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; Katya Fernandez, World Health Organization; Marie-Pierre Préziosi, World Health Organization; Dominique Caugant, Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

WHO’s plan starts with a clear understanding of the issues we’re here to address together. With our input, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has spent the past 6 months developing a detailed analysis of the gaps in dealing with the complexities of meningitis in the world today. Lead by WHO and in collaboration with London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineMédecins Sans FrontièresUNICEFPATH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, together we have formed a technical task force to help develop a roadmap using this analysis. Experts have commented and made this analysis stronger. Throughout 2019 WHO and partners will go out to people around the world to ask for their help in strengthening the draft plan. In May 2020 the final plan will go to the World Health Assembly and seek to gain global commitment to making it happen.

At Wilton Park in February 2019, WHO consulted on a draft plan that includes preventing people from getting meningitis; making sure people get the diagnosis, treatment and care they need; to advocating together for better access to affordable vaccines; and to ensuring that disability rights are enshrined in our approach. But we didn’t just plan - we committed to act as well.

As Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, I couldn’t be more proud that we are a key part of this change that is going to influence the lives of millions of people around the world over the next decade. We don’t just want to wish. We don’t fail to plan, or plan to fail. Promises and hopes aren’t enough. We are going to defeat meningitis – for everyone, everywhere. To see our commitments, find out what we’re doing and how you can play a vital role, click here.

Meningitis and septicaemia are serious, life threatening illnesses
Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million).
You don’t need to face meningitis and sepsis alone
A global vision for meningitis by 2030 and an action plan to get there.

About the author

Vinny Smith
Chief Executive

Besides meeting my wife and having two wonderful kids, leading MRF is the greatest privilege of my life.

Since joining in 2015 I’ve helped develop and launch a new brand identity, new website and a new strategy. We’ve held governments to account on vaccine policy and called for and achieved a new World Health Organisation global task force for meningitis to 2030.
Tel: 0333 405 6262
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