Reliable and timely information about the health of populations is part of the World Health Organization's mandate in the development of international public health policy. To capture data concerning functioning and disability, or non-fatal health outcomes, WHO has recently published the revised International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). In this article, the authors briefly outline the revision process and discuss the rationale for the ICF and the needs that it serves in rehabilitation. The ICF is shown to be an essential tool for identifying and measuring efficacy and effectiveness of rehabilitation services, both through functional profiling and intervention targeting. Existing applications of the ICF in rehabilitation are then surveyed. The ICF, in short, offers an international, scientific tool for understanding human functioning and disability for clinical, research, policy development and a range of other public health uses.