Helping health and social care professionals to develop an 'inequalities imagination': a model for use in education and practice

J Adv Nurs. 2003 Mar;41(5):480-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02555.x.


Background: The 'inequalities imagination model' originated from our own research, and led to findings and recommendations regarding clinical and education issues. This article focuses on the creation of the model which, we suggest, could be used to facilitate the development of an 'inequalities imagination' in health and social care professionals.

Aim: To describe and critically analyse the thinking that led to the concept of an 'inequalities imagination' and provide the framework for the theoretical model.

Methodological approach: Influencing concepts from the fields of social work, sociology, nursing and midwifery, and debates around antidiscriminatory and antioppressive practice, cultural safety, cultural competence and individualized care are analysed. INEQUALITIES IMAGINATION MODEL: Ideas generated from an analysis of the concepts of antidiscriminatory/anti-oppressive practice and from the research data led us to conceptualize a flexible model that incorporated issues of individual and structural agency and a broad definition of disadvantage. The literature review underpinning the theoretical framework means that the model has the potential to be truly interdisciplinary.

Conclusions: Professional educators face a difficult task in preparing practitioners to work with clients in ways that take account of differences in background and lifestyle and which respect human rights and dignity. The model makes explicit a process that enables practitioners to think about their current practice and move towards a greater understanding and awareness of the way they work with disadvantaged clients, and ways in which they prepare others to do so. We suggest that professionals develop an 'inequalities imagination' in order to enhance equality of care. The development of an 'inequalities imagination' helps practitioners to bridge the gap between the challenges they face in day-to-day practice and what they need to achieve to aspire to provide equality of care to all.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Health Nursing / methods
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing
  • Humans
  • Midwifery
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Prejudice
  • Psychosocial Deprivation*