In June, CoMO members from around the world travelled to London to attend the confederation’s ninth global conference. Following years of pandemic travel restrictions, this is the first time that members have been able to come together since 2019. Progress during these years did not falter, though. The confederation merged with the Meningitis Research Foundation, strengthening an already close collaboration, WHO launched the Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis and, in 2022, World Meningitis Day was more successful than ever before.
That said, everyone valued the opportunity to come together, match familiar email addresses to their owners, collaborate and have discussions in person, whether that was about regional strategies or songs for karaoke duets.
The conference took place on June 16–18, a weekend when many around the world celebrated Father’s Day. As highlighted by Jane Plumb (Group B Strep Support), this was a fitting symbol, as one of the reasons why everyone is so committed to defeating meningitis is to ensure no one misses time with loved ones due to the devastating disease.
The conference included a range of sessions: from case studies providing in-depth information on a member’s work to a scientific update that outlined how far our knowledge has progressed, and looking ahead to key dates in the calendar, like World Meningitis Day in October.
There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to raising awareness about meningitis:
Patti Wukovits, representing the Men B Action Project, shared best practices for meningitis educational materials development. Sharing experiences from developing a student hub in US colleges and universities, Patti emphasised the importance of co-creating solutions with audiences – not arriving with preconceptions on what would and wouldn’t work – and making it easy for people to go from awareness to action (e.g. vaccination clinics on campus).
Karen Quick presented on Meningitis Centre Australia’s experience working with Aboriginal communities in Australia and the need to create carefully crafted resources that the communities understood were designed just for them.
In the scientific panel discussions, members Prof Mustafa and Dr Kumar shared insights on how important it was to understand factors at play when discussing childhood vaccination – identifying the causes of hesitation to get vaccinated and providing information informally and meaningfully.
The power of peer-to-peer:
We are united by a common aim to defeat meningitis, and while each context is unique, there is a wealth of member experience and knowledge that is transferable. The conference offered an unparalleled opportunity to share best practice. For example, there was great interest in a presentation by Dr Tom Nutt (Meningitis Now). Tom shared how Meningitis Now have become a centre of expertise for aftercare and support and findings from a recent report they had published around services available in the UK.
The Global Road Map:
Following the launch in September 2021, progress to deliver the road map is occurring around the world. The conference offered an opportunity for the membership to share their experiences – from Rhoda Omorodion Omoile, CADEC founder and CoMO’s Africa Regional Coordinator, participating in the AFRO Regional Strategic plan launch, to planning workshops that included representatives from thirty countries in Congo-Brazzaville.
This portion of the conference was concluded by a presentation from Brian Davies, MRF’s Advocacy and Engagement Manager, on how MRF and CoMO are striving to support member and civil society engagement in the road map.
We may have had some time apart and a lot of change since we last met, but the conference made it clear that CoMO is now stronger than ever and together, we will #DefeatMeningitis.