The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health: a unifying model for the conceptual description of physical and rehabilitation medicine

J Rehabil Med. 2007 May;39(4):286-92. doi: 10.2340/16501977-0044.


There is a need to develop a contemporary and internationally accepted conceptual description of physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM). The process of evolving such a definition can now rely on the unifying conceptual model and taxonomy of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and an ICF-based conceptual description of rehabilitation understood as a health strategy. The PRM section of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) has endorsed the application of the ICF as a unifying conceptual model for PRM and supports the process of moving towards an "ICF-based conceptual description and according definitions of PRM". With this goal in mind, the authors have developed a first tentative conceptual description in co-operation with the professional practice committee of the UEMS-PRM-section. A respective brief definition describes PRM as the medical specialty that, based on the assessment of functioning and including the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions, performs, applies and co-ordinates biomedical and engineering and a wide range of other interventions with the goal of optimizing functioning of people experiencing or likely to experience disability. Readers of the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine are invited to contribute to the process of achieving an internationally accepted ICF-based conceptual description of PRM by submitting commentaries to the Editor of this journal.

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons / classification
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Medicine / classification
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine* / classification
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rehabilitation* / classification
  • Specialization
  • World Health Organization