If you're reading this article, chances are good you take something for granted every day: your ability to read. But even beyond that, the fact that you're reading Regulatory Focus means you're probably fluent in English and well-versed in medical terminology.
Many Americans, though, can't read, can't read or speak English, or can't read or speak English well enough to understand the medical terminology that is necessary to interpret the labels on medical products like drugs and medical devices.
Now FDA says it is making some changes geared toward making it easier for those who can neither speak nor read English to keep up with the agency's warnings and other outreach efforts.
"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to ensure that all Americans, including those with a limited ability to communicate in English, get the facts on topics, including new information on medical products, important to their health," FDA wrote in a 15 April 2014 announcement on its website.
The announcement follows the January 2014 release of FDA's Language Access Plan (LAP), an outreach blueprint intended to help it reach the estimated 60 million Americans who speak a language other than English at home. FDA estimates that nine million of those 60 million don't speak English proficiently, and more than four million don't speak English at all.
"Research shows that language barriers contribute to disparities in health and health care, especially for children," FDA noted.
FDA said a key component of its current plan is translating its press releases into other languages, and especially Spanish. Other press releases are translated into other languages depending on the issue and the consumers thought to be most affected.
"Some issues affect many communities, large and small, and that means reaching people who speak lesser-known languages," FDA added. "For example, FDA's diabetes information for women is available in Bengali, Chamorro, Urdu, Cambodian, Samoan, Taglish, Thai and Tongan."
FDA said another key component of its plan involves leveraging social media accounts like Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, on which it maintains Spanish language-focused accounts.
FDA also maintains a telenovela series called "Nunca Mas!" (Never Again) focused on medical product safety.
The agency said that the overall intent is to make sure its message is "easy to understand" and available to people regardless of how they access information or what language they speak.