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October 28, 2009
FDA Ventures Into Risk Communication

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making a new, unheralded commitment to risk communication in the social media-era by publishing a "Strategic Plan for Risk Communication". The plan, dated simply "Fall, 2009," appears on the FDA Web site.

Shepherded by the FDA's Risk Communication Advisory Committee, the new risk communication plan appears to take the agency into areas well beyond the physical labeling of regulated drugs and medicines.

In 2008, the advisory committee decided that the FDA:

Should consider risk communication as a strategic function to be considered in designing FDA core processes.
Should engage in strategic planning of its risk communication activities.
To these ends, the agency adds, "[The] FDA has developed a Strategic Plan for Risk Communication ... FDA has the capacity to empower the public by providing healthcare professionals, patients, and consumers with the information they need about FDA-regulated products, in the form they need it, when they need it. The plan presents FDA's strategies for risk communication and proposes ways to improve FDA's science base, its capacity for action, and its policy processes. FDA takes the approach that risk communication:

is integral to carrying out FDA’s mission effectively.
is a two-way process.
must be adapted to the various needs of the parties involved.
must be evaluated to ensure optimal effectiveness."
Mark Senak, of Fleishman-Hillard's Washington, D.C., writes in his Eye on FDA blogthat the FDA "is acknowledging that the responsibilities of the agency extend way beyond the physical labeling of a product. That seems new, at least to me, and opens up some unchartered terrain."

The risk communication plan, Senak suggests, should be read in conjunction with the FDA's upcoming November 15 meeting to consider the regulation of food and drug coverage in social media. All this activity could give risk communication principles greater visibility in the digital age, which is not a bad thing.


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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