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Health: We are helping to defeat meningitis

Wilton Park is supporting a significant step towards defeating meningitis. A global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030, initiated through two Wilton Park dialogues, was endorsed the World Health Assembly in November 2020.

Meningitis is a universal public health challenge in countries around the world. It kills 300,000 people annually and leaves one in five of those affected with devastating long term consequences (WHO, 2020).

Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030

Until now, meningitis has not been included in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) programme of work, but thanks to the efforts in developing a global roadmap, led by the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), meningitis is now highlighted as an infectious disease of focus alongside measles, polio, cholera and yellow fever.

The World Health Organization's Thirteenth Programme of Work
Meningitis included in the WHO’s Thirteenth Programme of Work

The ambitious roadmap sets out to tackle the leading causes of acute bacterial meningitis (meningococcus, pneumococcus, haemophilus influenzae and group B streptococcus).

It sets targets and milestones for improvements in five areas: prevention and epidemic control, diagnosis and treatment, surveillance, support and care for patients affected and engagement and advocacy.

The roadmap was endorsed by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in November 2020.

The impact

Endorsement by the World Health Assembly (WHA) marks a momentous milestone in defeating meningitis. It is the first time the WHA has discussed a meningitis resolution, and the first time global goals to defeat the disease have been set. It means that countries commit to meet targets and milestones set out in the roadmap, to save lives and ensure people who survive meningitis get the support they need.

This endorsement will help to eliminate epidemics and prevent cases the world over, as well as improving treatment, diagnosis and aftercare.

This game-changing moment will help to save lives and ensure survivors of the diseases get the support they need to maximise their quality of life. People affected by meningitis have made significant contributions to this plan and have lent their voice to and inspired our campaigning. We are very grateful for their support.

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, speaking at a Wilton Park conference
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation

The MRF have published a timeline, describing the inception of the roadmap, from 2017 to its endorsement at the World Health Assembly.

Track national and global progress towards defeating meningitis with MRF’s Progress Tracker. For the first time, the ‘story of meningitis’ has been brought together in one place.

This is a major landmark moment for meningitis. Members of the World Health Assembly have approved the roadmap as part of the first resolution on meningitis prevention and control and requested the Director General to provide support for this important initiative from WHO. The international community now needs to come together to meet the ambitious targets set out in the roadmap.

Professor Sir Brian Greenwood, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Wilton Park’s involvement

The roadmap has been made possible through two meetings hosted by Wilton Park.

May 2017

The Wilton Park event team working with partners at a planning meeting.
Pre-event planning meeting at Wilton Park, 2017

Working with Wilton Park, MRF bought together meningitis experts, civil society, global health organisations, academics and people affected by the disease from 17 countries to develop a plan. 

The discussions of this expert group led to a call for action to make progress towards a new plan for meningitis that inherited the success of the past two decades and looked to address the challenges of the next 13 years to 2030.

WHO representatives announced they would help achieve this by putting meningitis high on the global agenda. The focus would be to work on eliminating epidemic meningitis from the African meningitis belt and examining the potential for a more global agenda as identified by the meeting.

February 2019

A child being given a vaccination

MRF and Wilton Park organised a three-day residential summit of leading experts in meningitis to start a process to create a global action plan.

This provided a unique opportunity for discussion between senior health officials, policymakers, scientists and clinicians from countries affected by meningitis, as well as representatives from the WHO, UNICEF, PATH, Médecins Sans Frontières, CDC, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, other global health organisations, patient groups and pharmaceutical companies.

Using the convening power and style of Wilton Park, participants discussed and built on the draft roadmap and identified ways to implement it.

About this event
Download the event programme (212 KB)
Download the event report (623 KB)

Robin Hart, Senior Programme Director at Wilton Park

I’m proud that Wilton Park played a part in the journey to develop the global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030. It was exciting to bring together experts and officials twice, to use Wilton Park’s convening skills and the space that a dialogue at Wiston House enables, to generate shared ambition to turn an idea into reality. I congratulate all those involved in making this happen, and to those who can now turn this into reality.

Robin Hart, Senior Programme Director at Wilton Park


Robin Hart: Programme Director

Biography and other events


In partnership with:

The logo for Meningitis Research
The World Health Organization's logo