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International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health

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International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, also known as ICF, is a health status classification of functioning and disability due to the consequences of disease.

After nine years of international revision efforts coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Health Assembly on May 22, 2001, approved the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and its abbreviation of "ICF." This classification was first created in 1980 (and then called the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities, and Handicaps, or ICIDH) by WHO to provide a unifying framework for classifying the consequences of disease.

The ICF classification complements WHO’s International Classification of Diseases-10th Revision (ICD), which contains information on diagnosis and health condition, but not on functional status. The ICD and ICF constitute the core classifications in the WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC).

The ICF is structured around the following broad components:

  • Body functions and structure
  • Activities (related to tasks and actions by an individual) and participation (involvement in a life situation)
  • Additional information on severity and environmental factors

Functioning and disability are viewed as a complex interaction between the health condition of the individual and the contextual factors of the environment as well as personal factors. The picture produced by this combination of factors and dimensions is of "the person in his or her world." The classification treats these dimensions as interactive and dynamic rather than linear or static. It allows for an assessment of the degree of disability, although it is not a measurement instrument. It is applicable to all people, whatever their health condition. The language of the ICF is neutral as to etiology, placing the emphasis on function rather than condition or disease. It also is carefully designed to be relevant across cultures as well as age groups and genders, making it highly appropriate for heterogeneous populations.

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