New directions in health care and disability: The need for a shared understanding of human functioning

Ros Madden, Manuela Ferreira, Stewart Einfeld, Eric Emerson, Robert Manga, Kathryn Refshauge, Gwynnyth Llewellyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Human 'functioning' is about how people live on a day-to-day basis. This paper sets out the case for adopting a common language about functioning that would improve population health information and information sharing across health and community service systems. Approach: Modern health systems recognise the importance of human functioning in addition to diagnosis and disease prevention. 'Functioning' is important in the context of chronic disease, mental health, healthy ageing, and the right of people with disabilities and their carers to participate in society. We outline major directions in the health system and their relationship to the concept of functioning. Conclusions and implications: The concept of functioning has not been used explicitly and consistently in Australian health and human service systems, which nevertheless deal with the 20% of the population who experience difficulties in functioning. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is the international standard for definition, classification, information and measurement of functioning. While it has been partially implemented in Australia, it should be used more broadly, across health and community services, as the basis for information on functioning. This is an intended parallel to the use of the ICD as the standard classification and code list for disease monitoring and related health information systems. Monitoring health status and planning interventions and resources require information about people's functioning in their daily lives as well as their diseases. Such information should be based on the international standards developed for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-461
Number of pages4
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Activities of daily living
  • Assessment
  • Disability
  • Disability evaluation
  • ICF


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