When faced with uncertainty and unpredictability, early and transparent communication during a pandemic is critical to build trust and to ensure the credibility of public health advice. The responsibility for communicating with Canadians during a pandemic is shared by federal, provincial, territorial and local governments. A common plan is needed to ensure consistent, coordinated and appropriate communication. Canada's diversity in terms of its size, geography, languages and culture also requires a multifaceted approach so that the right message is delivered at the right time to the right person in the right format.
The Communications and Stakeholder Liaison Annex is a recently updated communication strategy in the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Planning Guidance for the Health Sector (CPIP). The Annex emphasizes the importance of communicating with both the public and key stakeholders (e.g., health care providers, professional organizations and policymakers) before, during and after a pandemic. This strategy is grounded in several communications guiding principles: putting the health of Canadians first; providing timely and sound information; communicating in a coordinated fashion from across all levels of government; protecting confidentiality; and monitoring and adapting to the public's perception of risk. The Annex outlines a risk communications approach, proposes triggers for action based on pandemics of varying impact, and includes a Communication Protocol that will be used countrywide in the event of a pandemic.