The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in partnership with WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, conducted Catastrophic Contagion, a pandemic tabletop exercise at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on October 23, 2022.
The extraordinary group of participants consisted of 10 current and former Health Ministers and senior public health officials from Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, Singapore, India, Germany, as well as Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The exercise simulated a series of WHO emergency health advisory board meetings addressing a fictional pandemic set in the near future. Participants grappled with how to respond to an epidemic located in one part of the world that then spread rapidly, becoming a pandemic with a higher fatality rate than COVID-19 and disproportionately affecting children and young people.
Participants were challenged to make urgent policy decisions with limited information in the face of uncertainty. Each problem and choice had serious health, economic, and social ramifications.
Project completed: October 2017
The Center’s SPARS Pandemic exercise narrative comprises a futuristic scenario that illustrates communication dilemmas concerning medical countermeasures (MCMs) that could plausibly emerge in the not-so-distant future. Its purpose is to prompt users, both individually and in discussion with others, to imagine the dynamic and oftentimes conflicted circumstances in which communication around emergency MCM development, distribution, and uptake takes place. While engaged with a rigorous simulated health emergency, scenario readers have the opportunity to mentally “rehearse” responses while also weighing the implications of their actions. At the same time, readers have a chance to consider what potential measures implemented in today’s environment might avert comparable communication dilemmas or classes of dilemmas in the future.