Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 126–133 | Cite as

A Conceptual Definition of Vocational Rehabilitation Based on the ICF: Building a Shared Global Model

  • Reuben Escorpizo
  • Michiel F. Reneman
  • Jan Ekholm
  • Julie Fritz
  • Terry Krupa
  • Sven-Uno Marnetoft
  • Claude E. Maroun
  • Julietta Rodriguez Guzman
  • Yoshiko Suzuki
  • Gerold Stucki
  • Chetwyn C. H. Chan


Background The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is a conceptual framework and classification system by the World Health Organization (WHO) to understand functioning. The objective of this discussion paper is to offer a conceptual definition for vocational rehabilitation (VR) based on the ICF. Method We presented the ICF as a model for application in VR and the rationale for the integration of the ICF. We also briefly reviewed other work disability models. Results Five essential elements of foci were found towards a conceptual definition of VR: an engagement or re-engagement to work, along a work continuum, involved health conditions or events leading to work disability, patient-centered and evidence-based, and is multi-professional or multidisciplinary. Conclusions VR refers to a multi-professional approach that is provided to individuals of working age with health-related impairments, limitations, or restrictions with work functioning and whose primary aim is to optimize work participation. We propose that the ICF and VR interface be explored further using empirical and qualitative works and encouraging stakeholders’ participation.


ICF Vocational rehabilitation Employment Work Concept formation Theory 



The authors would like to thank Debra Homa (Department of Rehabilitation and Counseling, University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie WI, USA), Eva Schonstein (Medibank Health Solutions and The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia), Urban Studer (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen SBB, Bern, Switzerland), and Jos Verbeek (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Kuopio, Finland) for serving as reviewers of the manuscript prior to submission. We also would like to thank the other members of the International Work Rehabilitation Network (i-NetWork) for their active participation during the conference on the ICF Core Set Development for Vocational Rehabilitation: Alex Burdorf (The Netherlands), Tania Buys (South Africa), Jain Holmes (UK), Stefan Koch (Germany), Jan Kool (Switzerland), Dennis Nowak (Germany), Rahel Oertli (Switzerland), Soo-Kyung Park (South Korea), Robin Pickard (UK), Stefan Staubli (Switzerland), and Frank Staudenmann (Switzerland). i-NetWork is an informal network of researchers, practitioners, and advocates whose interest is to advance the field of work rehabilitation. Special thanks to Monika Finger and Miriam Lückenkemper for reviewing the manuscript prior to submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reuben Escorpizo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michiel F. Reneman
    • 4
  • Jan Ekholm
    • 5
  • Julie Fritz
    • 6
  • Terry Krupa
    • 7
  • Sven-Uno Marnetoft
    • 8
  • Claude E. Maroun
    • 9
  • Julietta Rodriguez Guzman
    • 10
  • Yoshiko Suzuki
    • 11
  • Gerold Stucki
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Chetwyn C. H. Chan
    • 12
  1. 1.Swiss Paraplegic Research (SPF)NottwilSwitzerland
  2. 2.ICF Research Branch in Cooperation with the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Family of International Classifications in Germany (at DIMDI)NottwilSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Health Sciences and Health PolicyUniversity of Lucerne, and at SPFNottwilSwitzerland
  4. 4.Center for Rehabilitation and Department of Rehabilitation MedicineUniversity Medical Center GroningenGroningen/HarenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Clinical Sciences DSKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  6. 6.Department of Physical TherapyUniversity of Utah College of HealthSalt Lake CityUSA
  7. 7.School of Rehabilitation TherapyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  8. 8.Department of Health SciencesMid Sweden UniversityÖstersundSweden
  9. 9.American University of Beirut Medical CenterBeirutLebanon
  10. 10.Occupational Health Graduate Program, Faculty of MedicineUniversidad El BosqueBogotaColombia
  11. 11.Tokyo Metropolitan Rehabilitation Center for the Physically and Intellectually DisabledMejiro UniversityTokyoJapan
  12. 12.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHong KongChina

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