the aim of this article is to present the international classification of functioning, disability and health (icf), which comprises the "family" of classifications of the world health organization (who). this classification offers a unified and standardized language, as well as a conceptual framework for describing the health and the health related states, setting out a valuable instrument of practical use in public health. the model is established with two main parts: the first part includes the functioning and disability with two components: a) body structures and function and b) activities and participation. the second part includes the contextual factors with two components: c) environmental factors and d) personal factors. the components are classified by categories, organized in a hierarchical structure of four levels. in this paper we analyze the conceptual framework and the structure of the icf, and we also describe the action lines for its dissemination and implementation.