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

In 2001, the World Health Assembly endorsed the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), which represents a revision of the International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Health (ICIDH). The ICF has moved from being a "consequence of disease" classification to become a "components of health" classification. The ICF does not model the process of functioning and disability; instead, it provides a multi-perspective approach to classification as an interactive and evolutionary process. Terms used in the ICF are designed to be neutral in terms of etiology and are designed to include both positive and negative aspects.


The components of the ICF model and the interactions between components. From: World Health Organization. ICF: International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2002:18; with permission.

Definition of Terms in the ICF

body functions: The physiological functions of body systems (including psychological functions).

body structures: Anatomical parts of the body such as organs, limbs, and their components.

impairments: Problems in body function or structure, such as a significant deviation or loss.

activity: The execution of a task or action by an individual.

participation: The involvement in a life situation.

activity limitations: Difficulties that an individual may have in executing activities.

participation restrictions: Problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations.

environmental factors: The physical, social, and attitudinal environment in which people live and conduct their lives.

personal factors: The particular background of an individual's life and living; these make up features of the individual that are not part of the health condition or health states. These factors may include gender, race, age, other health conditions, fitness, lifestyle, habits, upbringing, coping styles, social background, education, profession, past and current experiences, overall behavior pattern and character style, individual psychological assets, and other characteristics, all of which may play a role in disability at any level. Personal factors are not classified in the ICF; however, their contribution is recognized.

functioning: An umbrella term encompassing all body functions, activities, and participation.

disability: An umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations, or participation restrictions.



World Health Organization. ICF: International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2002.

ICF Classification

Body Functions

  1. Mental functions

  2. Sensory functions and pain

  3. Voice and speech functions

  4. Functions of the cardiovascular, haematological, immunological, and respiratory systems

  5. Functions of the digestive, metabolic, and endocrine systems

  6. Genitourinary and reproductive functions

  7. Neuromusculoskeletal and movement-related functions

  8. Functions of the skin and related structures

Body Structures


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