Background on ICF

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Heath (ICF) is part of the 'family' of international classifications developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The ICF, with a focus on human functioning, provides a unified, standard language and framework that facilitates the description of the components of functioning that are impacted by a health condition. It is a tool that enables the collection of data as to how people with a health condition function in their daily life rather than focusing on their diagnosis or the presence or absence of disease. The ICF describes the situation of the individual within health and health-related domains and within the context of environmental and personal factors.

It is the only tool of its kind, developed and tested for cross-cultural applicability in over 40 countries. Its development was shaped by the views of health professionals, persons with disabilities, researchers, statisticians, government officials and other participants. The ICF integrates the social and environmental aspects of disability and health and provides a framework that is equally applicable for mental and physical disorders. Thus, it has great potential as a common global framework for organizing and communicating information on human functioning.

In 2001, the 191 Member States of the World Health Organization agreed to adopt the ICF as the basis for the scientific standardization of data on health and disability world-wide. The ICF directly contributes to WHO's efforts to establish a comprehensive population health measurement framework that includes measures of functional domains of health.

Reference: International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. World Health Organization, Geneva; 2001.

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