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International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF)

The ICF is a classification of health and health-related conditions for children and adults that was developed by World Health Organization (WHO) and published in 2001. The ICF framework can be used in interprofessional collaborative practice and person-centered care.

Functional Goal Writing Using ICF

Components of ICF

The ICF framework consists of two parts: Functioning and Disability and Contextual Factors. These parts are further broken down in the following manner:

Functioning and Disability includes:

  • Body Functions and Structures—describes actual anatomy and physiology/psychology of the human body.
  • Activity and Participation—describes the person's functional status, including communication, mobility, interpersonal interactions, self-care, learning, applying knowledge, etc.

Contextual Factors include:

  • Environmental Factors—factors that are not within the person's control, such as family, work, government agencies, laws, and cultural beliefs.
  • Personal Factors—include race, gender, age, educational level, coping styles, etc. Personal factors are not specifically coded in the ICF because of the wide variability among cultures. They are included in the framework, however, because although they are independent of the health condition they may have an influence on how a person functions.

Key Points

  • The ICD (International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) classifies disease, the ICF looks at functioning. Therefore, the use of the two together would provide a more comprehensive picture of the health of persons and populations.
  • The ICF is not based on etiology or "consequence of disease," but as a component of health. Thus, while functional status may be related to a health condition, knowing the health condition does not predict functional status.
  • The World Health Organization defines "health" as "the complete physical, mental, and social functioning of a person and not merely the absence of disease." In this definition, functioning as classified in the ICF is an essential component of health.
  • The ICF describes health and health related domains using standard language.
  • The purposes of the ICF include:
    • Collection of statistical data
    • Clinical research
    • Clinical use
    • Social policy use
  • The ICF is stated as the framework for the field in both the Scope of Practice for Speech-Language Pathology (2001) and the Scope of Practice for Audiology (2004).

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