Comparative studies on health systems in Europe show growing convergence in terms of general characteristics, while insufficient attention is paid to the overall range of varying welfare policies within which the health systems operate. By developing the theoretical model of health systems, this work puts forward the construction of an analytical approach able to contextualise health policies within the relative welfare systems. It proposes health regimes as an analytical category, defined on the basis of the different roles played by the actors called on to respond to health needs: the state, the market, the services sector and the family. Through a comparative study of a number of indicators, it outlines the four main ideal types of health regime in Europe. The attention on the contexts in which health systems operate makes it possible to recognise and valorise the contribution that the various actors make in responding to health needs, thus promoting a more complete vision for the analysis of health policies in Europe.
Keywords: Health regimes, health systems, welfare, health needs, comparative studies, European health policies.