Meningitis and neonatal sepsis are estimated to be the second-largest infectious killer of children under five, however exact global incidence and death rates are uncertain.
The Meningitis Research Foundation created the Meningitis Progress Tracker to bring together disparate models and highlight data deficiencies.
The tracker was specifically developed to support the World Health Organization’s Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030.
Meningitis and neonatal sepsis are estimated to be the second-largest infectious killer of children under five, with six million new cases causing 500,000 deaths every year—more than malaria, measles and tetanus combined. However, the exact global incidence and death rates are uncertain. Most of the countries where meningitis is common have low quality vital registration systems or no system at all, and country-level estimates can vary widely depending on the model health experts use.
To pull together information and disparate rate estimates on meningitis into one place for the first time, the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) created the Meningitis Progress Tracker. The website draws on models from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Maternal and Child Epidemiology Estimation group, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) to provide easy-to-navigate visualizations and charts. Data is disaggregated by region and age, covering cases, deaths, vaccination coverage, and major pathogen types. The site also presents sociodemographic information, allowing users to correlate burden of disease with income level, health worker access, and quality of underlying data.
“We are delighted that the Meningitis Progress Tracker has been chosen by the WHO and taskforce as the tool of choice to communicate progress we’re making against meningitis around the world,” Meningitis Research Foundation Chief Executive Vinny Smith said on the site’s launch, noting the tracker was specifically developed to support the World Health Organization’s Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. The deadline coincides with the United Nations Member States’ commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 3.2: “By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age.”
The MRF project team noted their analyses of the data presented on the tracker revealed major differences between estimates according to model and highlighted deficiencies in data underlying estimates in low and middle-income countries, where meningitis burden is highest. As well as providing “one-stop shop” for meningitis and neonatal sepsis data, the team states the site aims to “facilitate scrutiny to enable ministries of health and global health agencies to address problems and focus effort where it is needed most, empower civil society to advocate for improvement, and provide a teaching tool for academics training the current generation of public health doctors and epidemiologists.”
While the site is a work in progress and the project team is soliciting feedback for the next revision of the tracker, WHO regions are already using the tool to identify which countries should be targeted first for a needs assessment, prioritizing countries where health needs and impact of the roadmap is expected to be greatest.
This article was written with support from the UN World Data Forum Secretariat. Read additional SDG Knowledge Hub stories about the UN World Data Forum, data impact, and news.