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Phys Ther. 2006 May;86(5):726-34.

Toward a common language for function, disability, and health.

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  • 1Health and Disability Research Institute, Boston University, 53 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Within physical therapy, the disablement model has proven useful as a language to delineate the consequences of disease and injury. This perspective provides an update on the changing language of disablement, reviews selected contemporary disablement models, and discusses some challenges that need to be addressed to achieve a universal disablement language that can be used to discuss physical therapy research and clinical interventions. The World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework has the potential of becoming a standard for disablement language that looks beyond mortality and disease to focus on how people live with their conditions. If widely adopted, the ICF framework could provide the rehabilitation field with a common, international language with the potential to facilitate communication and scholarly discourse across disciplines and national boundaries, to stimulate interdisciplinary research, to improve clinical care, and ultimately to better inform health policy and management.

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