International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)
Original Editors - Laura Ritchie
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Components of the ICF
- 3 Contents of ICF Components
- 4 Measurement
- 5 Core Sets
- 6 Resources
- 7 References
The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is a framework for describing functioning and disability in relation to a health condition. It provides a common language and framework for describing the level of function of a person within their unique environment, as opposed to classifying the person by their having a specific condition or as a 'Yes/No' answer regarding disability. The World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT) adopted a motion supporting the implementation of the ICF in physical therapy in 2003.
The ICF is a framework to approach patient care that shifts the conceptual emphasis away from negative connotations such as disability and places focus on the positive abilities of the individual at the patient level rather than the systems level.
The below video ( 3.47 minutes) gives a good introduction with 4 brief videos to follow if wished delving into more detail.
Components of the ICF
The ICF focuses on three components: body, activities, participation (at individual and societal levels) and contextual (personal and environmental). These three components underscore the importance of the interplay and inﬂuence of both internal and external factors to each individual’s health status.
Body Functions and Structures
- 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 and structure such as significant deviation or loss
- b28010 Pain in head and neck
- s720 Structure of shoulder region
- s810 Structures of areas of skin
Note that codes relating to body functions start with 'b' while codes relating to body structures start with 's.'
Activities and Participation
- Activity: The execution of a task or action by an individual
- Activity limitations: Difficulties an individual may have in executing activities
- Participation: Involvement in a life situation
- Participation restrictions: Problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations
- d230 Carrying out daily routine
- d420 Transferring oneself
- d475 Driving
- d530 Toileting
- d910 Community life
- d920 Recreation and leisure
Note that codes relating to both activities and participation start with the letter d.
Definition: The physical, social and attitudinal environment in which people live and conduct their lives. These are either barriers to or facilitators of the person's functioning.
- e115 Products and technology for personal use in daily living
- e155 Design, construction and building products and technology of buildings for private use
- e210 Physical geography
- e355 Health professionals
Note that codes relating to environmental factors start with the letter e.
Personal Factors should also be considered in this model but are not classified within the actual ICF framework.
Contents of ICF Components
Each component is divided into a hierarchy with an additional digit added to the classification code for each subsequent layer in the hierarchy. The hierarchy is as follows;
- Component e.g. Activities and participation
- Chapter e.g. Mobility (Chapter 4)
- Block e.g. Walking and Moving (d450-d469)
- Two level category e.g. Moving around in different locations (d460)
- Three level category e.g. Moving around within the home (d4600)
A generic qualifier scale can be used to record the extent of the problem for each identified impairment, activity limitation and participation restriction. Environmental factors can also be qualified as either barriers or facilitators.
|Qualifier for Impairments of Body Functions & Structures||Qualifier for Impairments of Activities & Participation|
|0||No impairment||No difficulty|
|1||Mild impairment (present <25% of time, with tolerable intensity, occurring rarely over last 30 days)||Mild difficulty (present <25% of time, with tolerable intensity, occurring rarely over last 30 days)|
|2||Moderate impairment (present <50% of time, with intensity that interferes with day to day lift, occurring occasionally over last 30 days)||Moderate difficulty (present <50% of time, with intensity that interferes with day to day lift, occurring occasionally over last 30 days)|
|3||Severe impairment (present >50% of time, with intensity that's partially disrupting day to day lift, occurring frequently over last 30 days)||Severe difficulty (present >50% of time, with intensity that's partially disrupting day to day lift, occurring frequently over last 30 days)|
|4||Complete impairment (present >95% of time, with intensity that's totally disrupting day to day life, occurring daily over last 30 days)||Complete difficulty (present >95% of time, with intensity that's totally disrupting day to day life, occurring daily over last 30 days)|
|8||Not specified (insufficient information)||Not specified|
|9||Not applicable||Not applicable|
|Qualifier for Environmental Barriers||Qualifier for Environmental Facilitators|
|(.0)||No barrier||(+0)||No facilitator|
|(.1)||Mild barrier||(+1)||Mild facilitator|
|(.2)||Moderate barrier||(+2)||Moderate facilitator|
|(.3)||Severe barrier||(+3)||Substantial facilitator|
|(.4)||Complete barrier||(+4)||Complete facilitator|
|(.8)||Barrier, not specified||(+8)||Facilitator, not specified|
|(.9)||Not applicable||(+9)||Not applicable|
Performance versus Capacity
- Capacity: what a person can do in a standardised environment e.g. during clinical assessment. It indicates the extent of activity limitation as a direct manifestation of a person's health status, without any assistance (assistance of another person, equipment or environmental modification).
- Performance: what a person actually does in his/her usual environment e.g. at home. It indicates the extent of participation restriction or the "lived experience" by describing all physical, social and attitudinal environmental factors. It measures the difficulty a person experiences in doing things, assuming that they want to do them.
The gap between these two constructs reflects the impact that different environments can have on activities and participation. This gap can then guide intervention (e.g. on environmental factors) to help improve a patient's performance.
The ICF Core Sets were developed as a practical tool to facilitate the systematic and comprehensive description of functioning in clinical practice. They are compiled in order to provide health care professionals with a better understanding of the needs of their patient populations. Core sets for twelve chronic diseases were initially developed because of their prevalence and the significant impact on function they can cause. These twelve diseases are;
- Breast Cancer
- Chronic Ischaemic Heart Disease
- Chronic Widespread Pain
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Low Back Pain
- Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Additional Core Sets have subsequently been developed for various other conditions and populations including;
- Ankylosing Spondylitis (Axial Spondyloarthritis)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Neurological conditions in acute and post-acute care
- Musculoskeletal conditions in acute and post-acute care
- Geriatric patients in post-acute care
- Head and neck cancer
- Acute arthritis
All available core sets can be viewed here.
ICF in Relation to Wheelchair Users
Please see this page for information on use of the ICF in relation to users of wheelchairs.
- An introduction to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) from the WCPT
- Using the ICF in Clinical Practice from the WCPT
- World Health Organization ICF Resources, a summary from the WCPT
- ICF Core Sets
- ICF Checklist Version 2.1a Clinician Form
- Towards a Common Language for Functioning, Disability and Health: A guide for beginners
- A Practical Manual for using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
- Browse the ICF core sets online
- Have a play with the ICF Browser - Using this online browser you can see the structure of the classification, look up the codes and definitions, create your own shortlists of ICF codes and view the classification in more than one language.
- Take a look at the ICF Checklist - The user–friendly display of the most relevant ICF categories for clinical purposes. The checklist allows the user to identify and qualify the individuals functioning profile in a simple and time-efficient manner.
- Explore more on ICF from WHO
- Sykes C. Health classifications 1 - An introduction to the ICF. WCPT Keynotes. World Confederation for Physical Therapy. 2006.
- The ICF: An Overview. Available at: https://www.wcpt.org/sites/wcpt.org/files/files/GH-ICF_overview_FINAL_for_WHO.pdf
- Escorpizo R, Stucki G, Cieza A, Davis K, Stumbo T, Riddle DL. Creating an interface between the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2010;90:1053-63.
- Pranay Jindal Video 1 NA: What is the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)? Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoEIc4wBaIo&app=desktop (last accessed 14.10.2019)
- World Health Organization. ICF Checklist Version 2.1a, Clinician Form. 2003. Available at: http://www.who.int/classifications/icf/training/icfchecklist.pdf
- Kesselring J, Coenen M, Cieza A, Thompson A, Kostanjsek N, Stucki G. Developing the ICF Core Sets for multiple sclerosis to specify functioning. Mult Scler. 2008;14:252-4.
- Rauch A, Cieza A, Stucki G. How to apply the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) for rehabilitation management in clinical practice. Eur J Phys Rehabil. 2008;44(3):329-42.
- Morgan KA, Engsberg JR, Gray DB. Important wheelchair skills for new manual wheelchair users: health care professional and wheelchair user perspectives. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2017 Jan;12(1):28-38.
- Sykes C. Health classifications 2 - Using the ICF in clinical practice. WCPT Keynotes. World Confederation for Physical Therapy. 2007.