Elaboration of the contextual factors of the ICF for Occupational Health Care

Yvonne F. Heerkens*, Carin P. M. de Brouwer, Josephine A. Engels, Joost W. J. van der Guldend, IJmert Kant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Many work-related items are not included in the current classification of environmental factors from the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Furthermore, personal factors are not classified and the ICF only provides a very limited list of examples. These facts make the ICF less useful for occupational health care and for research in the field of occupation and health.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this discussion paper is to introduce an elaboration of contextual factors, focussing on factors that influence work participation.

METHODS: During the last 12 years, we developed two concept lists from the bottom up. These lists are based on our experiences in teaching and research, suggestions from students and other researchers, and factors found in the literature. In the fall of 2015 a scoping literature review was done to check for missing factors in these two concept lists.

RESULTS: An elaboration of contextual factors, consisting of a list of work-related environmental factors and a list of personal factors.

CONCLUSIONS: Important contextual factors that influence work participation are identified. Researchers, teachers, students, occupational and insurance physicians, allied health care professionals, employers, employees, and policy makers are invited to use the elaboration and to make suggestions for improvement. The elaboration and the suggestions received can be used in the ICF revision process. The development of an ICF ontology must be given priority, to give room to this elaboration, which will increase the applicability of the ICF and enable mapping with other terminologies and classifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-204
Number of pages18
JournalWORK-A Journal of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Environmental factors
  • personal factors
  • work participation
  • work ability
  • WORK

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