The WHO Family of International Classifications
The WHO constitution mandates the production of international classifications on health so that there is a consensual, meaningful and useful framework which governments, providers and consumers can use as a common language.
Internationally endorsed classifications facilitate the storage, retrieval, analysis, and interpretation of data. They also permit the comparison of data within populations over time and between populations at the same point in time as well as the compilation of nationally consistent data.
The purpose of the WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC)is to promote the appropriate selection of classifications in the range of settings in the health field across the world.
The basis for the WHO Family of International Classifications and the principles governing the admission of classifications are set out in the paper on the "WHO Family of International Classifications'. This paper also provides a protocol to those wishing to submit a classification for inclusion in the WHO-FIC.
Types of Classifications
The WHO-FIC is comprised of:
1. Reference Classifications: Main classifications on basic parameters of health. These classifications have been prepared by the World Health Organization and approved by the Organization's governing bodies for international use
- International Classification of Diseases (ICD)
- International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)
- International Classification of Health Interventions (ICHI)
2. Derived classifications
Derived classifications are based on the reference classifications( i.e. ICD and ICF) .
Classifications and Clinical Terminologies
Classifications capture snapshot views of population health using such parameters as death, disease, functionality, disability, health and health interventions, which inform management and decision making process in the health system. Over time they also provide insight on trends, which informs the planning and decision making processes by health authorities. The multiplicity of possible perspectives on health results in a variety of classifications. Their necessary evolution poses challenges for consistency. More recently, the varied applications in health information systems and the general availability of information and telecommunication technologies (ICT) has highlighted the need for increased interoperability.
The base line information that is aggregated for public health purposes is increasingly derived from health records, which contain both patient care related information, and also information that is crucial for management, health financing and general health system administration. The accuracy and consistency of the health records is crucial to ensure the quality of care and sound management of health systems resources. This calls for accurate and consistent use of clinical terminologies and recognition of the particular importance of semantic interoperability.
Possible synergies between classifications and clinical terminologies, have been identified crucial for future work, particularly in the perspective of a growing automation of information processing. WHO and its network of collaborating centres are taking steps in that direction.