FDA Issues Strategic Plan for Risk Communication

The Food and Drug Administration has issued its Strategic Plan for Risk Communication, which outlines the agency's efforts to disseminate more meaningful public health information.

The plan also lays out a framework for FDA to provide information about FDA-regulated products to health care professionals, patients, and consumers in the form they need it and when they need it, and for how the agency oversees industry communications.

"We are committed to improving communications the public receives about the products we regulate," said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of food and drugs. "The FDA must communicate frequently and clearly about risks and benefits and inform patients and consumers about ways to minimize risk as they become increasingly involved in managing their health and well-being."

The plan defines three key areas--FDA's science base, its operational capacity, and its policy and processes--in which strategic actions can help improve the FDA's communication about the risks and benefits of regulated products. The plan also identifies more than 70 specific actions for FDA to take over the next five years, including 14 that the agency commits to accomplishing over the next year. They include:

  • Designing a series of surveys to assess the public's understanding of, and satisfaction with, FDA communications about medical products
  • Producing a research agenda for public dissemination
  • Creating and maintaining a useful, easily accessible internal database of FDA and other relevant risk communication research
  • Developing an expert model to characterize tobacco-use related consumer decision-making and better understand the likely impact of FDA oversight of tobacco products
  • Developing a "library" of multimedia communications on safe food practices for general education purposes and for use with crisis communications concerning food contamination episodes
  • Posting pictures of FDA-regulated products affected by Class I or high-priority Class II recalls as part of recall notices/information
  • Developing detailed action plans at the agency and center levels for implementing and achieving the proposed action steps, including timelines, responsibilities, and resource needs

FDA said the plan reflects its belief that risk communications must be adapted to the needs of different audiences and should be evaluated to ensure effectiveness. The plan also focuses on improving two-way communication through enhanced partnerships with government and non-government organizations, and focuses on policies that affect areas of high public health impact.

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