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WHO-Family of International Classifications

The WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC) consists of a suite of classifications with utility in a range of settings in the health field across the world.

The WHO-FIC is comprised of classifications that have been prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO), or other groups on its behalf, and approved by the WHO-FIC Network and the WHO governing body,the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The WHO-FIC is made up of three types of classifications:

  • Reference classifications - cover the main parameters of health and the health system, such as death, disease, functioning and disability, health and health interventions. WHO reference classifications are a product of international agreements. They have achieved broad acceptance and official agreement for use and are approved and recommended as guidelines for international reporting on health. They may be used as models for the development or revision of other classifications, with respect to both the structure and the character and definition of the categories.
  • Derived classifications - based upon one or more reference classifications, and are consistent with them. Derived classifications may be designed to provide additional detail for a specialised purpose. Alternatively, they may be prepared through rearrangement or aggregation of items from one or more reference classifications. Derived classifications are often tailored for use at the national or multi-national level.
  • Related classifications - describe important aspects of health or the health system not covered by reference or derived classifications. They may arise from work in other sectors of the WHO, as in the case of external causes of injury (ICECI) and medicines (ATC-DDD), or have been developed by other organisations, such as the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC-2) and the Technical aids for persons with disabilities (ISO9999).

The basis for the WHO-FIC and the principles governing the admission of classifications are set out in the paper on the WHO Family of International Classifications, available from the Strategic Documents section of the WHO website. This paper also provides a protocol to those wishing to submit a classification for inclusion in the WHO-FIC.

More information on the WHO-FIC classifications can be found on the WHO website.

The WHO-FIC is maintained by the Network of Collaborating Centres.

WHO Family of International Classifications in Australia

  • International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) - this is used for mortality statistics. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is the principal user of this classification in Australia, supported by National Centre of Health Information Research and Training (NCHIRT) through classification and coding expertise, education and research. (ICD-10 online version)
  • International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision Australian Modification (ICD-10-AM) - this is used for hospital morbidity statistics. The National Centre for Classification in Health is leading the Australian Consortium for Classification Development in the development and maintenance of the Australian modification ICD-10-AM.
  • International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF) - this is used as the framework for describing and measuring health and disability. The Australian ICF Disability and Rehabilitation Research Program, run by the University of Sydney, supports work in the area of ICF. (ICF online version)
  • International Classification of External Causes of Injury (ICECI) - this is used to classify external causes of injuries. This classification assists in describing, measuring and monitoring the occurrence and causes of injuries using an internally agreed classification. The AIHW supports the work of the ICECI through its collaborating unit, the National Injury Surveillance Unit.
  • International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC) - this is used to classify health care encounters: reasons for encounter, diagnoses or problems, and process of care. The Family Medicine Research Centre at the University of Sydney provides Australian input into the ongoing maintenance and development of this classification.
  • International Classification of Health Interventions (ICHI) - this is currently under development. The National Centre for Classification in Health is leading this initiative both in Australia and internationally.

Classification development

Ensuring the WHO-FIC classifications remain current is a significant task. The WHO Update and Revision committee oversee this process and approve all changes made to the ICD and ICF classifications, ensuring all the changes:

  • provide a common language for clinicians and administrators
  • are receptive to new disease processes
  • accommodate emerging evidence of aetiologies of known diseases, and
  • accommodate emerging technologies and surgical procedures.

To facilitate the update and revision process, the WHO supports an ICD update platform and an ICF update platform. These online platforms:

  • allow users to enter structured proposals for either ICD or ICF updates
  • facilitate communication among expert workgroups involved in the review and approval of either ICD or ICF update proposals
  • promote transparency by requiring expert groups to post interim products of their deliberations on a regular schedule for comment, and
  • allow users to enter and comment on proposals.

Information on the update process and how you can provide comment on the update proposals can be found in the
ICD user guide or ICF user guide.