FDA Invests in Innovative Ways to Communicate to Hispanics

By: Gloria Sánchez-Contreras, M.A.

En Español

National Hispanic Heritage Month–celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15—gives Americans a great opportunity to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic Americans whose roots are in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Gloria Sanchez-ContrerasAt FDA, we join in this celebration as we continue to use innovative ways to reach Hispanics as part of our mission to protect the public health. To achieve this goal, FDA uses media strategies that are culturally and linguistically tailored to Hispanics, who, according to research, are avid users of online and social media.

There are 54 million people of Hispanic origin in the United States, making them the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority group, with 17 percent of the nation’s total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The United States has the second-largest population of Spanish-speaking residents in the world, ahead of Colombia and Spain, and second to Mexico, a recent study by the Instituto Cervantes shows.

These statistics cannot go unnoticed. FDA recognizes the importance of connecting with this growing and diverse segment of our population. Consequently, we have increased our online consumer information in Spanish and developed a variety of bilingual communications strategies to reach and engage all Hispanics.

One of the most important strategies we use is to make sure that messages created for Hispanics speak to them effectively. We consider Hispanics’ informational needs, lifestyles, and cultural health beliefs both when creating new messaging and when translating messaging from English to Spanish.

For example, we know Hispanics respond better when communications are in their primary language – which can be English or Spanish – and when communications use images that relate to them. We do this by employing a bilingual and bicultural team that reviews messaging for cultural competence and adapts translations to ensure they are culturally sensitive and in plain language.

In addition to our English-language communications, we have developed strategies to reach out to Spanish-speaking Hispanics online. Our Consumer Updates and drug safety communications are regularly translated into Spanish. We share Spanish-language information through our social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

In addition, we also have a complete Web section in Spanish for consumers (www.FDA.gov/ArticulosConsumidor), a press room (“Comunicados de Prensa”), and a central page (www.FDA.gov/Espanol) that links to a variety of Spanish-language content developed across the Agency’s product centers and offices.

These are exciting times, and it is a privilege to lead some of these efforts for our agency. The Office of External Affairs works diligently across FDA to share important and timely public health news with Latino consumers, stakeholders, media, and community organizations. And during Hispanic Heritage Month—and all the months of the year–we want Hispanics to know that FDA is a trusted source of consumer information.

Gloria Sanchez-Contreras, M.A., is a Bilingual Public Affairs Specialist and the Spanish-Language Communications Lead in FDA’s Office of Media Affairs.

Fresh Empire: FDA launches an Innovative Tobacco Public Education Campaign

By: Dr. Jonca Bull

Tobacco use can damage the body and lead to a range of diseases and conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. Unfortunately, the health burdens of tobacco use can disproportionately affect some minority communities.

Jonca BullI’m proud that FDA has recently launched a new tobacco public education campaign, “Fresh Empire.” “Fresh Empire” targets multicultural youth who identify with the hip-hop peer crowd – a hard-to-reach group that historically has been underserved by tobacco prevention campaigns. The aim of the campaign is to associate living tobacco-free with desirable hip-hop lifestyles through a variety of interactive marketing tactics including the use of traditional paid media, engagement through multiple digital platforms, and outreach at the local level.

While multicultural teens identify with multiple peer crowds, FDA is targeting youth who are at risk for tobacco use and who identify with the hip-hop peer crowd because research estimates that these youth are more likely to use tobacco than other youth.

Hip-hop culture encourages positive values, such as working hard to be successful and overcoming personal struggles, but at times it can also portray tobacco use as a desirable behavior. Additionally, by including tobacco use as part of lyrics and modeling the behavior in music videos and magazines, some hip-hop influencers help establish tobacco use as a peer-crowd norm. The “Fresh Empire” campaign seeks to break that norm – we want youth who identify with the hip-hop peer crowd to associate living tobacco-free as compatible with a hip-hop lifestyle.

An important pillar of hip-hop culture is remaining in control. However, because smoking represents a loss of control, tobacco use innately conflicts with the authentic hip-hop lifestyle. With the “Fresh Empire” campaign, we are asking teens to take control of their lives and choose to live tobacco-free. Most of the youth cast in the Fresh Empire ads are real teens and young adults who identify with this peer crowd and who, in many cases, have seen firsthand the damage that tobacco use has done in their communities. Take a look at some of the Fresh Empire ads.

The “Fresh Empire” campaign is another step we are taking towards making tobacco-related disease, disability, and death a part of America’s past, not its future.

Jonca Bull, M.D., is FDA’s Assistant Commissioner for Minority Health

A Quarter Century of Groundbreaking Science: The Forensic Chemistry Center

By: Stephen M. Ostroff, M.D.

This month marks the 25th anniversary of our Forensic Chemistry Center (FCC) in Cincinnati, Ohio. I recently joined former and current administrators and staff of this lab—one of FDA’s many incredible field laboratories—at an event celebrating this milestone.

Acting FDA Commissioner, Stephen Ostroff, M.D.One thing is clear: The last quarter-century has been a period of tremendous success at the FCC. FCC scientists use their scientific analysis and original research to investigate the physical and chemical characteristics and effects of adulterants on products regulated by the Agency, including chemical fingerprinting of poisons, glass, pharmaceuticals, food products and product packaging materials. By analyzing physical samples they can identify counterfeits, trace the origin of a pathogen or solve a crime.

In short, they are the CSI of FDA.

The commitment, expertise, and curiosity of FCC scientists have helped FDA overcome many scientific challenges, and made an extraordinary difference in the lives and safety of millions of Americans. Time and again the sophisticated analyses of puzzling substances by our scientists—often using innovative, esoteric methods, and groundbreaking research, along with the development of new processes and procedures—have made a critical difference in FDA’s ability to investigate and enforce–and protect the American public.

FCC Anniversary group photo

Former and current administrators and staff of the Forensic Chemistry Center (FCC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, at an event celebrating the 25th Anniversary. From left to right: Paul Norris, Director, Office of Regulatory Science; Steve Solomon, Deputy Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs; Dr. Ostroff, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs; Phil Walsky, Deputy Director, Office of Criminal Investigations; Fred Fricke, former Director of FCC; and, Duane Satzger, Director of FCC.

FCC’s work has paved the way for passage of important laws, legal prosecutions, and consumer protection activities like recalls. And it has helped strengthen international relationships and advance international cooperation to ensure product quality and consumer safety.

Just a few highlights of FCC’s important efforts include:

  • In the 1990s, the lab supported some of FDA’s early work evaluating nicotine, which was recently cited in the proposed rule to deem additional tobacco products subject to the agency’s tobacco product authorities;
  • In 2001, after 22 people died in the Croatian Republic after receiving dialysis using certain devices, FCC’s analysis identified the presence of a toxic performance fluid in those devices that resulted in their recall by the manufacturers;
  • FCC investigated numerous illnesses and deaths of cats and dogs during 2007-8, which led to the determination that the pet food was adulterated with melamine and related compounds;
  • FCC’s investigation and analysis following the death of cattle in Washington State helped the FBI rule out the possibility that it was caused by terrorism;
  • Following the deaths of a number of infants in India who had been given the measles vaccine, FCC investigated the vaccine’s manufacturing process and discovered that the cause was not, as initially feared, a vaccine of poor quality. Instead the children had received pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, which had been packaged in vials with similar size and shape to the vaccine, rather than the vaccine itself. This discovery was communicated to the Indian government, leading to a critical change in their immunization practices; and,
  • FCC developed a method for examining the sea animals impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which helped determine when the seafood would be safe to consume.

It is an extraordinary record. And it’s meant so much to FDA—and the nation—over the past 25 years. But the anniversary and success of this one lab also underscores the remarkable work done by all of FDA’s laboratories across the country. These labs and the districts in which they are located are the critical front line eyes and ears of FDA. And they are the springboard for excellent science.

Good science is fundamental to the mission of FDA. We need it to make good regulatory decisions. It’s what the public expects and deserves. By being able to handle and apply the science of today and anticipate the science of tomorrow we can be more flexible and adaptive, and support innovation.

Having seen the impressive and important work our labs are doing, I’m more committed than ever of the need to invest in better facilities and the best support. We must maintain state-of-the-art laboratories and research facilities, and attract, hire, and retain the best scientists to work in them. First-rate regulatory science requires first-rate scientists working in first-rate facilities.

It’s why I’ve made this a priority for FDA. And why we will put it high on our list of subjects for discussion with Congress as they shape future budgets for the Agency.

The scientists in FDA’s field laboratories are among the unsung heroes of FDA’s work to protect the public health. So let me congratulate and thank those at the FCC and across FDA on the milestone occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Forensic Chemistry Center.

Stephen M. Ostroff, M.D., is Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

FDA and the Department of Defense: A Joint Force to Reduce Tobacco Use in the Military

By: Kathy Crosby

Tobacco use continues to be a serious problem, particularly in the military community. So when I presented FDA’s award-winning The Real Cost ads at the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health earlier this year, they caught the eye of Public Health Service Capt. Kimberly Elenberg, a program manager from the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Agency (DHA). She was looking for a way that FDA and DHA could work together to reduce smoking rates among the military community, especially youth.

Kathy CrosbyDHA already actively encourages service members to live a healthier life through Operation Live Well (OLW), a program that aims to make healthy living the easy choice and norm for service members, retirees, DoD civilians, and their families. OLW’s goal is to highlight and offer resources that teach and encourage its members to choose wisely about their nutrition, get physically fit, maintain healthy sleep practices, get and stay mentally healthy, and avoid or stop using tobacco products.

The latter goal is especially significant given that military service members smoke at a higher rate (24 percent) than their civilian counterparts (18 percent), and those who identify as heavy smokers often began smoking earlier than their civilian counterparts – at 14 years old or younger.

Since adult tobacco use is almost always initiated and established in adolescence, both Capt. Elenberg and I felt that the military community, especially military kids, would benefit from some of the tobacco prevention materials we develop here at FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Working collaboratively, we developed an agreement where FDA would supply DHA with six advertisements from The Real Cost campaign, to run in more than 100 military installation movie theaters, domestically and internationally, until March 2016. The ads focus on consequences of tobacco use such as loss of control due to addiction, cosmetic health effects and the toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke.

The Real Cost educates viewers about the dangers of tobacco use by making them fully aware of the real cost of every cigarette. It portrays in new ways the health and addiction risks associated with tobacco use. By partnering with DHA, we are able to help military service members and their families lead healthier lives by encouraging them to rethink their relationship with tobacco.

I feel honored that DHA sees the potential for our work to make a positive impact on military families. To date, The Real Cost has far exceeded the recommended best practices to achieve behavior change and improve public health, reaching more than 90 percent of the target audience at least 15 times a quarter, and the campaign has generated nearly 2.5 billion digital impressions on youth-focused websites. I hope that our collaboration with DHA will continue to introduce new viewers to the campaign and educate them about the dangers of tobacco use.

Great ideas for collaborating with other agencies and groups come from a variety of places. If you have an idea for how we can continue to help reduce tobacco use, I would love to hear from you.

Kathy Crosby is FDA’s Director, Office of Health Communication and Education, Center for Tobacco Products.

FDA, From a Distance

By: Claudia Heppner, Ph.D.

It is a great honor for me, as a European, to be working for FDA. I am one of the two Locally Employed Staff (Foreign Service nationals) currently working in FDA’s Europe Office in Brussels, Belgium.

Claudia HeppnerI came to this position after serving for 12 years in the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is the European Union (EU) institution that provides independent scientific advice on existing and emerging food safety issues.

Before joining EFSA, I worked with the Secretariat of the EU’s Scientific Committee on Food. I’ve also worked for a multinational company in Belgium and the United Kingdom in the areas of pesticides product discovery and product development, including genetically-engineered plants.

With seven months at FDA under my belt, I enjoy and receive a great deal of satisfaction from my challenging new duties. Together with my colleagues, I am analyzing the range of science and policy issues under discussion in the EU’s decision-making framework. These EU issues span the breadth of FDA-regulated products and may sound familiar to some: updating and streamlining the food safety system; rapid access to innovative medicines; biotech, nanotech, novel foods, mobile and e-health; and, implementation of new legislation on tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

The EU has a complex environment for decision making, involving the “three pillars” (the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU) along with EU organizations that are counterparts to FDA such as the European Medicines Agency, EFSA, and various EU scientific committees.

In addition, each EU Member State (countries that are members of the EU) has its own national law-making bodies and regulatory organizations.

Only the European Commission can propose an EU law. The preparatory steps include: concept papers; a roadmap describing the timeline and significant events; impact assessments examining potential economic, social and environmental consequences; and public consultations.

I quickly learned that the European system is quite different from the legislative process and the notice-and-comment rule making system in the United States. In the Europe Office, we look at each step along the way in the EU decision-making process as a potential opportunity for strategic engagement.

Recently, I wrote a paper that analyzed what the EU is doing to strengthen food regulatory systems in Africa, China, and India. I was struck by the possibilities of what could be achieved through FDA and EU cooperation to help assure the safety of foods shipped to the United States and Europe and to improve public health around the world.

I feel fortunate to be working at FDA and to have the opportunity to broaden my professional horizons. I enjoy the dual focus on science and policy, working on medical product issues as well as foods issues, and observing how a non-EU organization like FDA works.

I look forward to continued learning and to the possibility of contributing to both the U.S. public health and – through FDA’s engagement with the EU – the EU public health.

Claudia Heppner, Ph.D., is a Senior Policy Analyst in FDA’s Europe Office

Find out more about FDA’s Europe Office

Need a Guidance Document? We’ve Got You Covered

By: Chris Mulieri, PMP

We all understand the frustration of searching online for something and not finding it. The Food and Drug Administration recently helped end this problem by making it faster and easier to find our guidance documents – some of the most requested items on our website.

Chris MulieriGuidance documents represent FDA’s current thinking on a particular subject. Currently, there are about 3,100 of them – and the list is growing.

FDA’s Web & Digital Media team and the Office of Information Management and Technology have created a dynamic search list on one site so you can go to just one page and find the guidance documents you need, no matter where they are on FDA.gov. This search tool is powerful and easy to use. Now you can go to just one search box to find what you need in moments, instead of the 10 different pages on FDA’s website where guidance documents are posted.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a guidance document on devices, drugs, biologics, tobacco, veterinary medicine, or foods – it’s all there.

We did this as part of FDA’s Transparency Initiative and in response to the feedback we got from our stakeholders via the American Customer Service Index (ACSI) online survey. They told us just how hard and time-consuming it was for them to find these important documents. So we decided to do something about it.

It’s not practical for us to put these documents all in one place. So, we assembled a working group with representatives from each of FDA’s Centers (which post the guidance documents on their own sites) and developed the search criteria.

In addition, we tagged the documents with metadata (search terms) needed to make search and filtering functions work as intended. Now, the list automatically populates as you enter search terms and filters. Each column is sortable.

You can narrow your search by filtering on different categories, including product, date issued, FDA organization, document type, and subject. Refine your search by draft guidance, final guidance, whether it’s open for comment, or by comment closing date.

How are we doing?

Since the launch of the guidance search in December 2014, page views have increased from about 22,000 to more than 136,000 for the first quarter of 2015. For the first time, the page is among the top visited on FDA’s website. And we’ve seen improved user satisfaction, reflected in the feedback in the ACSI responses.

We hope you’ll try the new guidance document search page soon and let us know what you think.

Chris Mulieri, PMP, is FDA’s Director, Web & Digital Media, Office of External Affairs.

FDA Science Forum 2015: Views of FDA

FDA’s 2015 Science Forum attracted more than 800 people from the scientific community. Here’s what some attendees said about the innovative research going on at the agency and why FDA can be a valuable collaborator in research aimed at transforming food safety and medical product development. If you couldn’t attend the FDA science forum, you can still see all the presentations on our web site.

FDA’s New Research Videos on E-Cigarettes, Nicotine and Cigarillos

By: Cathy L. Backinger, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Cindy Miner, Ph.D.

How dramatic is the increase in e-cigarette use? Why are flavored little cigars and cigarillos increasingly popular among ethnic minorities? What would happen if we reduced the amount of nicotine in cigarettes so that they were no longer addictive?

These are just some of the questions that FDA-funded scientists are answering. Often research is focused on innovation and discovery to expand the body of scientific knowledge. Regulatory science is different—and exciting in its own way. How often do scientists get to see their research findings used to improve people’s lives? Tobacco regulatory scientists are doing just that.

We Need a Strong Science Base to Address Issues that Matter Now

In 2009 Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, creating the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) at FDA and giving us the responsibility to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco to protect public health.

Our challenge is to regulate effectively in a changing marketplace. The 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that while cigarette smoking has continued to decline, a new trend emerged—more middle- and high-school students used e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes and 2.2 million students reported using two or more types of tobacco products. In April 2014, FDA proposed a new rule to extend FDA’s authority to cover additional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, little cigars, and cigarillos.

Data on these and other key topics—from harmful chemicals in tobacco to the effect of chewing tobacco on oral health to tobacco advertising—will help inform future regulatory actions and monitor the impact of those actions on public health.

Some of the Researchers Who Are Leading the Way

FDA is currently funding a broad range of important research, including the following via a partnership with the National Institutes of Health:

Andrew Hyland (Roswell Park Cancer Institute) is the lead investigator for the landmark Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, which will help us learn how and why people start using tobacco, switch from one tobacco product to another, quit using it, and start using it again after they’ve quit. The PATH Study collects information on new tobacco products like e-cigarettes and will give us many insights.

Watch Andrew Hyland’s “Tobacco Regulatory Science in Action” interview on FDA’s website.

Eric Donny (University of Pittsburgh) is studying how reduced levels of nicotine in cigarettes might affect the way people smoke. What are the benefits? Could there be adverse effects, such as people smoking more cigarettes to get the same amount of nicotine? Does it make a difference whether the levels are reduced gradually or at once?

Watch Eric Donny’s “Tobacco Regulatory Science in Action” interview on FDA’s website.

Kymberle Sterling (Georgia State University) is studying what people, especially ethnic minorities, think about little cigars and cigarillos. Little cigars and cigarillos are used by many people who are younger and in ethnic minority groups. Understanding what contributes to this behavior will help the nation begin to address some of the disparities that exist among vulnerable populations.

Watch Kymberle Sterling’s “Tobacco Regulatory Science in Action” interview on FDA’s website.

To learn more about the breadth of research we support, please look at all of our research videos* or look at the abstracts of research we’ve funded in our search tool. These projects are just a part of the work that FDA has undertaken to improve public health and inspire the next generation of researchers interested in tobacco regulatory science.

Cathy L. Backinger, Ph.D., M.P.H, is FDA’s Deputy Director for Research in CTP’s Office of Science

Cindy Miner, Ph.D., is FDA’s Director of the Division of Health, Regulatory and Scientific Communication in CTP’s Office of Health Communication and Education

*The opinions in these videos reflect the views of individual researchers, and not necessarily the official position of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. These videos represent accurate information about the design of these CTP supported studies at the time the interviews were conducted (Spring, 2014).

FDA Science Forum to Focus on Emerging Technologies

Dr. Luciana Borio, FDA’s Acting Chief Scientist, invites you to the FDA 2015 Science Forum at our White Oak headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland on May 27-28. We’ll be showcasing exciting, cutting-edge regulatory science research. For more information and how to register for the forum before the deadline of May 15, 2015, go to The FDA Science Forum.

FDA’s Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of the Food and Drug Law Institute

By Stephen Ostroff, M.D.

Today marks the start of my third week as Acting Commissioner of FDA and I “celebrated” by giving a keynote address to attendees at the annual conference of the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI). Few places offer a more appropriate stage for a newly designated leader of FDA. As our names suggest, our organizations have a lot in common.

Stephen OstroffFor decades, the FDA and FDLI have worked together to educate and inform the broad “food and drug” community about the latest developments in our field and FDA’s critical and complex role in promoting and protecting the public health.

It’s been an exciting, busy, and rewarding first three weeks since moving into my new office from the position of Chief Scientist. The FDLI annual meeting offered me the opportunity to highlight a number of FDA’s accomplishments over the last year. The credit for these achievements in no small measure goes to the immensely talented employees at FDA who are committed to assuring safe and nutritious foods, providing effective and high quality medical products, and reducing harm from tobacco products. Credit for these achievements also reflects the extraordinary leadership of my predecessor, Dr. Peggy Hamburg, over the last 6 years.

So today, I’m pleased and honored to present to this audience some of FDA’s accomplishments and challenges, and also to extend my sincere appreciation to FDA’s dedicated work force, who make my new job much easier. But much more importantly, our work force makes the lives of so many Americans safer and healthier. It is with great pride that I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in support of this noble goal.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D., is Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration