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July 2020 Educator | Resource of the Month

The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.

Assessing Social Determinants of Health:
A Classification Tool for Functioning and Disability

Social determinants of health, according to HealthyPeople.gov, are social and economic conditions in the environments where people live. These conditions, in conjunction with behavioral risk factors, affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes. Recognizing and addressing this broader context as part of health assessments can help ensure better health outcomes and contribute to lowering individual and group health inequities. 

This Educator|Resource introduces the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), which takes into account the dynamic interaction between an individual’s health conditions, environment, and personal factors. Developed by the World Health Organization, the ICF can be used by social workers and other health professionals to assess a person’s level of functioning, which treatment and/or intervention works best, and the evaluation of treatment.

The ICF reinforces the biopsychosocial and systems perspectives in social work. The environmental factors section in the ICF Checklist includes questions regarding support, relationships, and a person’s physical environment. In addition, questions on services, systems, and policies provide a mechanism to identify strategies for intervening at an organizational or systems level and removing constraints or barriers that hinder individuals with disabilities in their communities.


Teaching Resources

ICF Case Study and Class Exercises

ICF Beginner's Guide

ICF Checklist

Using the ICF

ICF PPT Presentation

ICF and PIE Classification Comparison


Q&A: Educator Pedagogical Approach

What are your goals in sharing this piece?
Increased awareness about the usefulness of international classifications among social workers is the primary goal. International classifications provide a mechanism for a common language to share health and functioning information between health systems and service providers. Read full Q&A.


About the Educator

IMAGE-Contributor-headshot-July.jpg Dr. Patricia Saleeby, associate professor at Bradley University, is a collaborating member of the World Health Organization Functioning and Disability Reference Group. She was one of the first social workers involved in the development of the international classification of functioning, disability, and health.

The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.

 Interested in contributing to the Educator | Resource of the Month? Please contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].