Meningitis and neonatal sepsis kill more children than malaria, measles and TB combined. Across all ages there were almost 500,000 estimated deaths in 2017.
Meningitis and neonatal sepsis are rarely listed as health priorities in major global health strategies and frameworks. This absence influences the priority that countries place on addressing the disease, budgets they allocate to it, and the wider funding available to them for this work. As a result, progress towards defeating meningitis has been slow. According to one estimate, between 1990 and 2017, meningitis deaths in children under 5 fell by just 53% compared to 87% for measles, 93% for tetanus and 70% for diarrhoea.
To accelerate progress, the World Health Organization (WHO) set up a technical taskforce
to co-ordinate the development of a global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030. As a member of the taskforce, we investigated the global and regional burden of meningitis for the WHO Baseline Analysis, to show the extent of the problem and decide how to address it. We highlighted major differences between modelled estimates and deficiencies in data underlying these estimates in low and middle income countries.
Following this, we developed the prototype Meningitis Progress Tracker (MPT 1.0), a tool which, for the first time, brings together data from diverse sources on meningitis cases and deaths, prevention, surveillance, treatment and impact on quality of life all in one place, aligned with the five pillars of the WHO Defeating Meningitis by 2030
As the tool chosen by WHO and the taskforce to monitor Roadmap progress, the tracker will play a vital role in focussing interventions where they are needed to combat 6 million cases and nearly 500,000 deaths due to meningitis and neonatal sepsis per year, and so contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal vision to leave no one behind.