The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security recently introduced a self-guided exercise scenario to help public health communicators and risk communication researchers prepare for transmission dilemmas they could face during a pandemic.
The SPARS Pandemic scenario book features the outbreak of the fictional SPARS coronavirus. The virus was first identified in a U.S. city in 2025 and then spread to every U.S. and 40 countries.
In the scenario, the United States repurposes a drug to treat the virus while federal regulators and a pharmaceutical company work to quickly produce a vaccine. The resulting vaccine must then be distributed across the nation while dealing with strains on the U.S. healthcare system caused by the pandemic.
Scenario participants must deal with a variety of communication dilemmas resulting from this situation. Action items cover risk communications, rumor control, interagency message coordination and consistency, issue management, proactive and reactive media relations, cultural competency, and ethical concerns.
“This rigorous, simulated health emergency affords practitioners and scholars the opportunity to mentally rehearse responses while also weighing the implications of their actions,” Monica Schoch-Spana, senior associate at the Center and SPARS project lead, said. “At the same time, readers have a chance to discern what potential measures implemented in today’s environment might avert comparable communication dilemmas or classes of dilemmas in the future.”