Manawatu has workers with "alarming" health and fitness levels, with one in five on the brink of depression, but a programme designed to help has been stopped.
The iWorkWell workplace-based programme was delivered by Sport Manawatu with nearly $100,000 a year from the MidCentral District Health Board.
But the Health Ministry's Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) fund has dried up, with neither the board nor employers prepared to pick up the bill to extend the two-year pilot.
The demise of the programme was criticised by Palmerston North city councillors Chris Teo-Sherrell and Jim Jefferies this week.
Cr Teo-Sherrell said test results provided by UCOL during the project were "absolutely frightening".
"It's a wonder more people don't drop dead at their desks."
The district health board should stop being "the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff", he said.
Cr Jefferies said it would be a lot cheaper in the long term to invest in prevention of illness.
About 150 of what grew to 1340 people involved in the programme through 14 workplaces undertook two rounds of tests.
They did less than half the recommended level of activity of working up a sweat in three, 20-minute exercise sessions a week. The average participant fell into the danger zone for poor cardio fitness.
All could do with improving their cholesterol levels.
More than half were showing symptoms of psychological strain, with 20 per cent almost exhausting their coping ability and close to depression. Nearly half were overweight, with 15 per cent obese.
The iWorkWell programme provided tailored plans for workplaces tackling physical activity, nutrition, stop-smoking help, and other healthy lifestyle choices.
The benefits were expected to be reduced sick leave and accidents, improved job performance, morale and productivity.
But the pilot programme ended in August and was not renewed, said MidCentral District Health Board senior portfolio manager Craig Johnston. “We expected that over time the programme would deliver benefits to employers and that they would contribute financially to the costs of the programme.
"This was not the case.”
Sport Manawatu chief executive Mike Daisley said the programme had been built to tackle the "disturbing" low level of fitness in the general population.
Sport Manawatu would continue looking for partners to help pay for at least some aspects of the scheme, making it easier for workers to connect with sports groups and find opportunities to improve their health, Mr Daisley said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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