New Orleans Health Department

City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

Date range: 1898-1996
Size of collection: 5 mss. volumes, 25 boxes (correspondence/subject files), 411 rolls of microfilm, ca. 5 lin. ft. (published documents)
Terms of Access: Available to registered researchers by appointment

Historical Note

Act 192 of the 1898 Louisiana Legislature established the Board of Health for the City of New Orleans. Prior to that enactment the city's health "was protected under municipal authority expressed as a general charter provision giving it power to maintain its cleanliness and health by certain enumerated powers of sanitation, zoning, and inspections." There was a state Board of Health before 1898. During most of its history that agency was domiciled in New Orleans and exercised some influence on local health conditions. State legislation enacting a new municipal charter in 1912 specified a City Board of Health distinct from the parish boards operating elsewhere in Louisiana.

Historically, the Board of Health and the employees under its control were responsible for taking care of the local health concerns of the day. In the early days quarantine, infectious diseases, and sanitation were major responsibilities. With advances in health care over the years some issues became less important, with new concerns making their appearance on a regular basis. One specific responsibility was the recordation of birth, death, and marriage certificates, a function given to the Board of Health in 1898, one that had been handled by a separate Recorder of Births and Deaths since 1811 (marriages were added to his duties in 1870).

The city's Home Rule Charter of 1954 provided that the Dept. of Health would be composed of a five member Board of Health, appointed according to the provisions of state law, and a Director of Health, appointed by the Chief Administrative Officer with the Mayor's approval. Its responsibilities were stated as follows:

  1. Protect the health of the people of the City
  2. Enforce the State Sanitary Code
  3. Adopt and enforce local health and sanitary regulations
  4. Make such health inspections and examinations as may be required by law and institute and conduct programs of public health
  5. Investigate the causes and institute measures for the control of epidemic, preventable and communicable diseases
  6. Operate and manage hospitals owned by the City
  7. Collect and maintain vital statistics, records and other data relating to the health of the community; issue marriage licenses and burial permits; and record and certify births, marriages and deaths

Since 1898 there has been a certain amount of confusion and uncertainty about the relationship between the Board of Health and the Health Department, as well as that between the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana concerning health matters. The 1954 charter notes that the powers, duties and function of the Department were to be as provided by the charter, city ordinance and applicable state law. In 1972, moreover, the Legislature passed law giving the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Resources the authority to regulate health matters statewide. One result was to remove from the Board of Health all of its powers to enact or enforce health rules and regulations. After 1973 the Board existed in an advisory capacity only. In 1974 the city and the state agreed to a contract whereby the city's Director and Deputy Director of Health are appointed by the CAO but are responsible to the state for the effective management of the Health Department. The contract did not specify exactly what the city department would be responsible for, but it did transfer the vital records and sanitary inspection/enforcement functions to DHHR.

The 1994 city charter reflects the changes of the 1970s. It no longer makes reference to a Board of Health, and it no longer includes provisions regarding the operation of hospitals or the management of vital statistics/vital records. It does, however, provide for the operation of emergency medical services.

Content and Scope Note

The records include several series, as follows:
Minutes of the Board of Health, 1914-1962 [FF300]
Three typewritten volumes, arranged in chronological order. The minutes for each meeting are signed by the Board's chairman and secretary. Various attachments (reports, correspondence, proclamations/resolutions, oaths of office, treasurer's reports, payrolls, etc.) are stapled or pasted into the volumes (this is especially common in book 1).

Correspondence/Subject Files, 1949-1995 [ONLINE INVENTORY]
Transferred to the Archives in 1995 following the resignation of Dr. Brobson Lutz as Director of Health. Most of the records are listed as "General Files," but there is also a subseries of "AIDS Files." The records are especially strong for the period of Dr. Lutz's administration which began in 1983. Also of special interest is an extensive file on the "merger" of the Health Department with the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Resources.

Records of the Recorder of Births, Marriages and Deaths
The original records were transferred to State custody in 1974. The Archives has microfilm copies of the nineteenth and early twentieth century death and marriage records. Click the following links for more detailed descriptions of these records: Deaths | Marriages. (The Archives also has microfilm copies of the death indexes through 1949, the marriage indexes through 1994, and the birth indexes through 1897).

Biennial/Annual Reports, 1898-1990 [FF200]

(also annual reports of: the Mosquito Control Division, 1965-1995; Rodent Control, 1972-1973; Bureau of Public Health Nursing, 1955; and Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, 1952, 1958; see the City Archives card catalog and NOPL's automated catalog for holdings.)

Statistical Reports (See the City Archives card catalog and NOPL's automated catalog for holdings)

  • Birth and Marriage Statistics, 1946, 1951-1956
  • Monthly Statistical Reports of the Bureau of Vital Records, 1913-1974 (incomplete)
  • Annual Mortality Reports, 1946, 1951-1956
  • Weekly Morbity Reports, 1945-1971 (incomplete)
  • Monthly Mortality Reports, 1911-1913 (incomplete)
  • City Health Laboratory Monthly Reports, 1973-1974
  • Lead Poison Prevention Program Monthly Reports, 1973-1977
  • Mosquito Control Division Monthly Reports, 1965-
  • Personal Health Protection Monthly Reports, 1974
  • Rodent Control Program Monthly Reports, 1973-1975
  • Pollution Control Monthly Reports, 1973-1974
  • Environmental Health Services Monthly Reports, 1972-1974).
Register of Complaints of Violations of Health Laws, 1916-1920 [FF380]
One manuscript volume. Essentially a log book for complaints made to the Board of Health. Each entry includes the date, complaint number, name of person complained against, address, "at premises" (location of property complained against), violation, time, complainant, and "relative to" (a description of the violation and/or disposition of the matter). Two examples:
  • 2/1/1916; #24; Oscar Labat, Mngr., Crescent Hall; St. Charles & Canal; 3081, sect. 1; 7:40 am; J. A. Gleason; oyster shells dumped in gutter, pleaded guilty 2/5/1916 & fined $1
  • 7/11/1916: #894: Miss Anna Brown: 805 Marengo St.: Robertson, Freret, General Taylor, and Marengo; 3080; 9:25 am; McCabe & Schott; weeds & grass on lots & sidewalk

Guest Register, 1946-1963 [FF420g]
One manuscript volume (only six pages used, mostly during 1946-1949). Records the data, name, address, city, and agency of physicians, health officials, and other visitors to the Health Dept' offices

Surveys and Reports
Published reports on a variety of topics. Of special interest is the two-volume Report of the health and sanitary survey of the City of New Orleans, conducted jointly by the Board of Health and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. in 1919 [FF202 1918-1919]. See the City Archives card catalog and NOPL's automated catalog for additional titles.

See the City Archives card catalog and NOPL's automated catalog for titles.

Vox Sanitans, 1931-1933; Health Notes (various dates); Personnel Hi-Lite (various dates). See the City Archives card catalog and NOPL's automated catalog for holdings.

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Coded: December 10, 2001
Coded by: Wayne Everard

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