Staff at Seeka have collectively lost more than 180kg in a "Biggest Loser" challenge set up to encourage employees to improve their health and wellbeing.

The Te Puke-based produce company started the initiative after completing the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation's Workplace Wellness programme.

The programme, said to be the only one of its kind in New Zealand, provides a free nursing outreach service in partnership with medical centres.

It includes on-the-spot free heart, diabetes and women's health checks, as well as vaccinations, immunisations and assistance for smokers wanting to quit the habit.


"A lot of our employees are shift and seasonal workers, so getting to see a doctor can be difficult," Seeka's Ange Storck said.

"Bringing health checks into the workplace is an efficient way for them to check in on their health."

Tracy McLean, a member of Seeka's Verified Lab Services team, was one of those to take part in the Biggest Loser challenge after the programme. She has lost 4kg.

"I think the fact there was an initiative put out there gave us the encouragement to start something," the 41-year-old said.

"It was an opportunity to encourage [colleagues] to join and keep them motivated to keep going, and get us out from behind our desks."

Some staff members walked the block together, others climbed the Pāpāmoa Hills regularly, and seven of the VLS team go to a fitness class at a gym in their lunch break.

Members of Seeka's Verified Lab Services team doing an afternoon workout. Eight VLS staff took part in the weight loss challenge, losing a collective 30.5kg. Photo / George Novak
Members of Seeka's Verified Lab Services team doing an afternoon workout. Eight VLS staff took part in the weight loss challenge, losing a collective 30.5kg. Photo / George Novak

Between October last year and June 30 this year, 17 businesses were involved in the Workplace Wellness programme, a lot of them in the packhouse and construction industries.

Western Bay of Plenty PHO services leader, Philippa Jones, said the programme targeted businesses which employ people who are not enrolled or actively engaged with a General Practice (GP).

"And if they've got Māori, Pacific, Asian or low-paid workers because the Ministry of Health classes those as high need."

She said WBOP PHO had more than 61,000 people from that "high-need" population enrolled.

"So we're trying to reach those with high need. If businesses know they've got workers who are tending not to go to General Practice, for whatever reason, they probably need to contact us so we can bring the work to them."

The Workplace Wellness programme feeds test results back to people's doctors and if they do not have a doctor, helps them enrol with one.

Jones said the programme was aiming to ramp up its reach this financial year and work with around 40 businesses.

Diabetes and gout were being seen regularly, she said, and as part of the programme, specialist nurses were going into businesses to educate and help people manage those specific conditions.

She said diabetes was reaching "epidemic proportions" and could be "catastrophic", while gout was "very common and not always well managed".

Waimarie Sylvester, who co-ordinates Workplace Wellness, said the programme was continually evolving.

It initially focused on cardiovascular risk assessments, cervical smears and mammogram referrals.

But connecting people to GPs was now a strong focus, and there were also more and more conversations about mental health. Two community dieticians have also got involved.

One of those dieticians returned to Seeka after it completed its programme to educate the staff members taking part in the Biggest Loser challenge.

A total of 82 people have lost a combined 182.2kg.

The Workplace Wellness checks will be offered to Seeka staff annually.