Objective: To study one aspect of the development of primary care research from 1975 to 2003.
Design: Quantitative bibliometric study.
Setting: Pub Med database.
Subjects: Four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden), seven countries from the rest of Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK), and seven countries from the rest of the world (Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and the USA).
Main outcome measures: Number of primary healthcare publications per million inhabitants. Percentage of publications in primary healthcare of all publications in human medicine.
Results: In 2003, New Zealand, the UK, and Australia were in the lead, with barely 20 primary care publications per million inhabitants, followed by Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark, where the corresponding figure was around 10. A vigorous increase in publications from 1975 to 2003 was clearly seen in most of the countries. However, during the same period the proportion of publications from primary care in relation to all publications in human medicine was only moderately increased, or virtually unchanged.
Conclusion: It is believed that primary care research has a future, and it is hoped it may even be bright. However, searching Pub Med gave but one aspect of the historical development, and in particular the comparisons between countries may be questionable.