FDA launches consumer site

WASHINGTON: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives consumers a new source for health information, with the launch of a new Web page, www.fda.gov/consumer, that puts a great deal of information in one location for the first time.

WASHINGTON: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives consumers a new source for health information, with the launch of a new Web page, www.fda.gov/consumer, that puts a great deal of information in one location for the first time.

The launch comes as part of a larger online communications overhaul at the agency, said Jason Brodsky, FDA assistant commissioner for external relations, and there will be more changes announced in the coming months.
Already, changes have been implemented in the "newsroom" section of the Web site, after representatives consulted with journalists who use the site. RSS feeds are soon to be added to the consumer section as well, Brodsky said.

As part of the new launch, the FDA will discontinue its print consumer publication and supplement the new site with an e-newsletter to send to subscribers. Brodsky also said the agency was currently looking at the possibility of partnerships with online health sites that are recognized as sources of information for the public.

"The philosophy is evolution vs. revolution," said Sanjay Koyani, director for online communications at the agency. "We don't want to wait two years to launch something completely new, so we're updating the sections as we go and we're also continuing to look for improvements."

The changes come after extensive usability studies were conducted, Koyani said. The agency used health experts and consumers to see how well they were able to find information on the agency's old Web site. An evaluation of those searches led the agency to use the information those test subjects were searching for to create the new consumer page.

"We certainly recognize the interest the public has in health information," Brodsky said. "This is really a major move forward in terms of extending the reach of consumer health information, and transforming it to an online model."

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