Toward a new definition of rehabilitation for research purposes: a comparative analysis of current definitions

Thorsten Meyer, Carlotte Kiekens, Melissa Selb, Elain Posthumus, Stefano Negrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a need for a common, shared definition of rehabilitation to conduct systematic reviews and identify relevant systematic reviews for knowledge translation purposes, which is an important task of Cochrane Rehabilitation. The present paper aimed to introduce and compare existing health-related definitions of rehabilitation and to propose core aspects that should characterize a new and workable definition of rehabilitation that is able to serve both as the basis for internal communication and identity work and for external communication. We have conducted a PubMed literature search on current definitions that have been published since the launch of WHO's ICF in 2001. Definitions were analyzed by framing questions to which the definitions provide answers. Nine definitions were included in the analysis. Rehabilitation has been defined as a process, as a set or bundle of interventions, and as a health strategy. The main beneficiaries were mainly related to the presence of disability, however, no specific means or interventions in rehabilitation could be identified. The definitions provided varying answers to the questions "by whom…," "where…," and "when…" and additionally identified certain conditions for rehabilitation. The present analysis can serve as a valuable source of information for developing a Cochrane Rehabilitation definition of rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-681
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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