The February 4, 1937 issue of The Bossier Banner proudly detailed the opening of the Bossier Parish Health Unit.

“The next few days will see the new Bossier Parish Health Unit swing into action, even if from temporary quarters. This will mark a new day for Bossier Parish, for it will be a great step forward and a movement which will bear fruit from this time on.”

“We are glad to see Bossier get the health unit. For over six years now we have devoted space, from time to time, in these columns in assisting in the effort to get a unit for our parish. Of course ours was not the only voice raised in this cause. Public spirited men and women, in almost every community, saw the worth of a health unit and did all in their power to secure one.”

“The Parent-Teacher Associations of our parish and other leading women citizens are to be given a great share of the credit for the establishment of the unit. Naturally, we should not overlook the fact that we had public officials willing and ready to go on record in favor of the unit, even in the face of some opposition.”

“From this time on the health of our citizens, especially of our school children, will be more zealously guarded that ever before. We frankly predict that after a few months none of our people will be willing to do without a health unit.”

“We call the public’s attention to the fact that only trained public health workers will be sent into our parish. They are experts in their lines of work. They know what they will be about. But, they cannot make public health work count for the most unless they have the co-operation of all our people—school authorities, parents, municipal officials and the citizens of every community. We are sure that this co-operation will be freely given.”

“On the eve of the opening of the health unit we are glad to welcome the workers to Bossier Parish and to extend to them the hearty co-operation of this newspaper and of all our people.”

The Shreveport Times published an article (a copy of which is in the archives of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center) about the retirement of Dr. H. N. Barnett in its July 31, 1969 issue. Dr. Barnett had been director of the health unit since it opened in 1937 until he retired 32 years later in 1969. He was 87.

When Dr. Barnett came to Bossier Parish citizens were still in the throes of the depression and there were few paved roads. 18-20 midwives, under the supervision of the health unit, delivered babies because there were not enough doctors to go around. In its early days the health unit did not have to cope with any major epidemics but did have to deal with an outbreak of polio in 1953. Later, when the Salk vaccine was developed, Bossier Parish was one of the first five parishes in Louisiana to administer the vaccine.

Other health issues in which the health unit has been involved include the virtual elimination of malaria and typhoid and supervising the building of pit toilets when sanitary facilities were almost nonexistent.

To find out more about the fascinating history of Bossier Parish visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or amiddlet@state.lib.la.us.