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FDA rethinks its risk communications
Last month, FDa issued its                                               often lengthy. now, as the inter-     must communicate the context
strategic Plan for Risk Commu-        Strategic Plan for                 net and emerging technologies         of the message so that the words
nication, a 44-page tome 10 years     Risk Communication                 both enable and feed the public’s     make sense to the audience.” For
in the making by multiple agency                       FDA’s plan        demand for greater transparency       example, says the agency, when
and external committees.                               calls for:        and communication frequency,          FDa says a product is “safe
   “We are committed to improv-                          n Surveys to    these protracted waiting periods      and effective,” it means that in
ing communications the public                            assess public   are giving way to communica-          a very specific legal context—
receives about the products we                           understanding   tion in real time.”                   i.e., when used as labeled and
regulate,” said FDa commis-                              of FDA com-        In the past, the agency has        intended. moreover, research
sioner margaret hamburg, mD,                             munications     communicated with the public          assesses risks and benefits for a
in a statement. “the FDa must         about medical products             through privileged intermediar-       population, but for individuals,
communicate frequently and            n Increased use of plain lan-      ies, handing down indecipher-         results may vary. these are not
clearly about risks and benefits      guage accessible to audiences      ably worded labeling to the hoi       caveats that consumers are likely
and inform patients and con-          with limited health literacy or    polloi through priestly classes       to be mindful of when making
sumers about ways to minimize         English proficiency                including physicians, industry        medical decisions. and, as the
risk as they become increasingly      n Creating and maintaining an      and the media, who would then         report notes, people are com-
involved in managing their health     internal database of agency and    render them into slightly less        plicated. they don’t take drugs
and well-being.”                      external risk communication        inscrutable form. nowadays, any       as directed, because they don’t
                                      research                           old schmo can pop over to the         want to think of themselves as
   the plan is a hail of bullet
points and action items, most                                            agency’s somewhat retro, vintage      sick and taking them does, or
of them pretty vague (“Capac-        an acknowledgment that the ter-     looking site and pull up medi-        because they start to feel better
ity strategy 1: streamline and       rain has shifted.                   cal hieroglyphics on drugs and        and think they can discontinue
more effectively coordinate the         “In the past, FDa’s commu-       devices themselves.                   treatment, or because they forget
development of communication         nication efforts were largely          another key subtext of the         or misread the instructions.
messages and activities”). But       restricted to overseeing the        plan is a post-Vioxx shift i
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