Background: We analysed Australian general practice (GP) publications in PubMed from 1980 to 2007 to determine journals, authors, publication types, national health priority areas (NHPA) and compared the results with those from three specialties (public health, cardiology and medical informatics) and two countries (the UK and New Zealand).
Method: Australian GP publications were downloaded in MEDLINE format using PubMed queries and were written to a Microsoft Access database using a software application. Search Query Language and online PubMed queries were used for further analysis.
Results: There were 4777 publications from 1980 to 2007. Australian Family Physician (38.1%) and the Medical Journal of Australia (17.6%) contributed 55.7% of publications. Reviews (12.7%), letters (6.6%), clinical trials (6.5%) and systematic reviews (5%) were the main PubMed publication types. Thirty five percent of publications addressed National Health Priority Areas with material on mental health (13.7%), neoplasms (6.5%) and cardiovascular conditions (5.9%). The comparable numbers of publications for the three specialties were: public health - 80 911, cardiology - 15 130 and medical informatics - 3338; total country GP comparisons were: UK - 14 658 and New Zealand - 1111.
Discussion: Australian GP publications have shown an impressive growth from 1980 to 2007 with a 15-fold increase. This increase may be due in part to the actions of the Australian government over the past decade to financially support research in primary care, as well as the maturing of academic general practice. This analysis can assist governments, researchers, policy makers and others to target resources so that further developments can be encouraged, supported and monitored.