Updated: May 22, 2020
Six Ideas for Digital Awareness-Raising Activities
As we are all aware, COVID-19 has disrupted lives all over the world, bringing countries to a standstill.
For meningitis advocacy groups, however, the need to raise awareness of the disease is more important than ever. Global health organisations and medical professionals have warned against the potential rise of vaccine-preventable diseases like meningitis due to disruptions in immunisation services. Delays in receiving vaccines pose a serious threat to individuals, communities and health systems.
People are also reluctant to seek medical attention during the pandemic. In March in the UK (as in many other countries), visits to the Accident and Emergency department of hospitals fell to the lowest on record.
As meningitis is a medical emergency and can kill in hours, a delay in seeking urgent medical attention could have disastrous consequences.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CoMO members have been faced with the challenge of continuing their vital work to raise awareness of meningitis, while adhering to the social distancing measures in their countries. This year, despite the odds, World Meningitis Day reached more people than ever across the world, with members harnessing what technology has to offer and exploring the vast possibilities of virtual events. In this blog, we share just some of our members’ activities around World Meningitis Day, although you can find out more about what CoMO members got up to here.
1. Social Media Competitions
Asociación Española contra la Meningitis (AEM), Spain
For World Meningitis Day this year, AEM embraced the challenge of raising awareness virtually, running a children’s art competition themed around health and disease prevention. As well as this, the organisation hosted a live work-out session with Davide Bartolo Morana (AEM Ambassador and meningitis survivor) and released a series of videos which asked people to imagine a world without meningitis. AEM’s fantastic efforts contributed to the huge success of the #diamundialdelameningitis hashtag, which reached 68.5 million people this year!
Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), Philippines
PFV held a webinar on World Meningitis Day to discuss updates on the Global Meningococcal Initiative. The talk was hosted by Prof Josefina Carlos of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERMMC). Over 200 people attended the webinar! Watch it here.
3. Digital Graphics and Educational Resources
For World Meningitis Day this year, the Meningitis B Action Project raised awareness of meningitis by releasing a set of educational infographics that were shared as part of a social media campaign.
Patti and Alicia of the Meningitis B Action Project spoke about virtual awareness-raising:
"It’s a balance – COVID-19 is the obvious global health priority, but we also have a responsibility as advocates to keep other critical health topics like immunization top of mind. This World Meningitis Day, we adjusted by making it possible for our B-team to advocate virtually with social graphics. We also wanted to be sensitive to today’s reality, so we adapted our message: ‘Don’t forget your immunizations. Talk to your doctor about both the MenACWY and MenB vaccines and schedule a visit as soon as you feel comfortable.'"
Meningitis Now, UK
For World Meningitis Day, Meningitis Now ran a social media campaign urging people to learn the signs and symptoms. In the week after World Meningitis Day, the charity encouraged people to take part in the 2.6 challenge. 6-year-old meningitis survivor Harmonie-Rose raised over £60,000 for Meningitis Now by completing 6 activities she was told she would never be able to do.
5. Media Appearances
MRFC Founder and Executive Director Kathryn Blain appeared on Breakfast Television Toronto on World Meningitis Day, sharing how she lost her son Michael to meningitis. Kathryn used her appearance to emphasise the importance of prevention. She said: “He was diagnosed quickly, the antibiotics were given immediately, but that was not enough… I receive many calls and emails from parents who believe that their children are vaccinated.” In fact, there are multiple vaccines that help prevent meningitis. Parents can be pro-active by talking to their healthcare providers about all the available vaccines.
Kathryn was also joined by Dr. Joanne Langley of Dalhousie University, a paediatric infectious disease physician who gave a medical overview of meningitis.
Kathryn has kindly shared her story with us for our Personal Meningitis Stories webpage. Read her story here.
6. Virtual Events
The organisation in France did an amazing job of raising awareness of meningitis for World Meningitis Day. Shifting their annual sponsored walk, known as the ‘Marches Des Anges’ (March of Angels), to a digital event, extreme walker Gerard Bertin walked over 100 km in his garden!
The event on Facebook received 4,986 likes, and the meningitis charity raised €1,825, which will support their future advocacy work.
Given the fears raised by medical professionals about the likely resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to raise awareness of meningitis is more vital than ever.
CoMO members face the challenge of communicating the devastating impact of meningitis, how to identify it, and how it can be prevented, while adhering to the new socially-distanced world we find ourselves in. The exceptional success of World Meningitis Day 2020 is evidence of CoMO member’s unwavering commitment to defeating meningitis. The level of global engagement in the campaign shows that citizens, medical professionals and global health organisations all recognise and support the need to end this disease.
The Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030 sets out the steps that need to be taken to end the incidence and impact of meningitis worldwide. This year is a landmark year for meningitis advocacy, as the Road Map was approved to be discussed at the World Health Assembly. However, we still need people to get involved and the Meningitis Research Foundation has been campaigning to get people to show their support for the Road Map. Hundreds of people around the world have already pledged their commitment to a world without meningitis and you can now join them and help #DefeatMeningitis by completing this short survey.
 https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---27-april-2020  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/09/ae-attendances-lowest-point-since-records-began-amid-coronavirus/