The Quarterly Chair’s Column: 1st Qtr 11

By: Steve Voigt, Chair

Does the use of ‘disaster’ to describe any number of issues in our states and country ring hollow to anyone else in the wake of Japan’s multiple disasters?  After getting over the disbelief around the scale of the human impact, the magnitude of the recovery needed and the equanimity of the Japanese people is what strikes me.

While operationally, I applaud those relief organizations who, already in the first days were on the ground, finding how to get to affected areas, with water,  food and shelter, and wonder about those who are slow out of the blocks.  For my money, that kind of action kicking in even as grieving and hopelessness look like they will consume all, gets people to focus on things over which they do have control .  As I write this the Japanese emperor has asked for ‘everyone to take care of each other’; a request both doable and critical.

But this thinking begins with the disasters already unfolding.  A question for us and our futures: What is it that we should have been preparing for, but didn’t?   Japan has the highest level of earthquake preparedness, but it was the tsunami rather then the earthquake that triggered the worst of the situation.   In our businesses and our state, are we looking at further refinement of one risk area while a fresh risk area goes unexamined?

My second thought arises from undertaking a sea change (single payer health plan) with many big dollar questions unanswered.  I’ve asked for and received members’ analyses and it’s not clear what the numbers are in many of our companies.  The numbers we are able to crunch raise only other important questions.  So how can we opine?  Please help VBR push the understanding forward by sharing real data and insightful analytical approaches with the new healthcare task force (send an email to me, copy Lisa)  We’ll work to get the thoughtful policy points in front of the right folks while the window of opportunity is still open.