Content » Vol 39, Issue 4

Organizing human functioning and rehabilitation research into distinct scientific fields. Part I: Developing a comprehensive structure from the cell to society

Gerold Stucki and Gunnar Grimby
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-0050


There is a need to organize rehabilitation and related research into distinct scientific fields in order to overcome the current limitations of rehabilitation research. Based on the general distinction in basic, applied and professional sciences applicable to research in general, and the rehabilitation relevant distinction between the comprehensive perspective based on WHO’s integrative model of human functioning (ICF) and the partial perspective focusing on the biomedical aspects of functioning, it is possible to identify 5 distinct scientific fields of human functioning and rehabilitation research. These are the emerging human functioning sciences and integrative rehabilitation sciences from the comprehensive perspective, the established biosciences and biomedical rehabilitation sciences and engineering from the partial perspective, and the professional rehabilitation sciences at the cutting edge of research and practice. The human functioning sciences aim to understand human functioning and to identify targets for comprehensive interventions, with the goal of contributing to the minimization of the experience of disability in the population. The biosciences in rehabilitation aim to explain body injury and repair and to identify targets for biomedical interventions. The integrative rehabilitation sciences design and study comprehensive assessments and interventions that integrate biomedical, personal factor and environmental approaches suited to optimize people’s performance. The biomedical rehabilitation sciences and engineering study diagnostic measures and interventions suitable to minimize impairment, including symptom control, and to optimize people’s capacity. The professional rehabilitation sciences study how to provide best care with the goal of enabling people with health conditions experiencing or likely to experience disability to achieve and maintain optimal func­tioning in interaction with the environment. The organization of human functioning and rehabilitation research into the 5 distinct scientific fields facilitates the development of academic training programs and career building as well as the development of research structures dedicated to human functioning and rehabilitation research.

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