This paper describes the development of Danish research into the primary health care system 1950-80 during which 1198 reports were published. After this research field had been given a high priority by the National Danish Medical Research Board, the number of reports published per year increased rapidly. This was also a consequence of an increased understanding both in the population and among professionals in the health care system, of the importance of prevention and thus of social components in morbidity and in the consequences of disease. The published reports are described concerning the underlying research organization, the research objectives, and the methodology applied. Needs for future activities are outlined, especially the need for methodological education and for research concerning the organization of the primary health care system. Research should be directed towards the involvement of the population in decisions in the primary health care system, thus enabling greater understanding of morbidity and consequences of disease and, consequently, increasing activity in the promotion of good health.