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A critical exploration of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) framework from the perspective of oncology: recommendations for revision

Authors Bornbaum C, Doyle P, Skarakis-Doyle E, Theurer J

Received 7 November 2012

Accepted for publication 12 January 2013

Published 8 March 2013 Volume 2013:6 Pages 75—86


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Catherine C Bornbaum,1 Philip C Doyle,1–3 Elizabeth Skarakis-Doyle,1,2 Julie A Theurer2,3

1Graduate Program in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, 2School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 3Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada

Background: In 2001, the World Health Organization developed the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) framework in an effort to attend to the multidimensional health-related concerns of individuals. Historically, although the ICF has frequently been used in a rehabilitation-based context, the World Health Organization has positioned it as a universal framework of health and its related states. Consequently, the ICF has been utilized for a diverse array of purposes in the field of oncology, including: evaluating functioning in individuals with cancer, guiding assessment in oncology rehabilitation, assessing the comprehensiveness of outcome measures utilized in oncology research, assisting in health-related quality of life instrument selection, and comparing the primary concerns of health professionals with those of their patients.
Discussion: Examination of the ICF through the lens of cancer care highlights the fact that this framework can be a valuable tool to facilitate comprehensive care in oncology, but it currently possesses some areas of limitation that require conceptual revision; to this end, several recommendations have been proposed. Specifically, these proposed recommendations center on the following three areas of the ICF framework: (1) the replacement of the term “health condition” with the more inclusive and dynamic term “health state;” (2) the continuing development and refinement of the personal factors component to ensure issues such as comorbidities can be accounted for appropriately; and (3) the inclusion of a mechanism to account for the subjective dimension of health and functioning (eg, quality of life).
Summary: It is through the expansion of these conceptual parameters that the ICF may become more relevant and applicable to the field of oncology. With these important revisions, the ICF has the potential to provide a broader biopsychosocial perspective of care that captures the diverse range of concerns that arise throughout the continuum of care in oncology.

Keywords: ICF, International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health, cancer, quality of life, personal factors, health condition

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