The wellness advocate
AT first she wanted to be a veterinary physician, then she wanted to be a doctor, but in the end fitness and wellness coach Patricia Fletcher settled on becoming a nutritionist. She has not lived to regret that decision.
Fletcher became a nutritionist in 1982 out of a desire to see people get well, and in 2000 established the Health Profit Group as a wellness centre to provide supportive services to individuals and organisations. But prior to even starting her consultancy business, the nutritionist was diagnosed with Graves' Disease in 1998, and she had to depend on her own advice and her faith for complete recovery.
Graves' Disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones caused from an overactive thyroid. "So I had a goitre on my neck and the doctor told me I would never be off medication and that I would need surgery and radiotherapy and then be on medication for the rest of my life," she said.
"I couldn't accept it, I really couldn't accept it, and I felt that God made me with a purpose and with a focus, and that was that. I enjoy seeing people get better, get well, and that is what I wanted to see, and I said, 'Well, it has to start with me'."
Fletcher got better and doctors took her off medication. But her brief episode with the disease resulted in a complete lifestyle change for her.
"I began eating a bit more raw and green foods, and part of my research led me to an exercise called rebounding, which is exercising on something that looks like a mini-trampoline, and I realised that it is a cellular exercise that could work on my cells," she explained.
Given the effectiveness of the rebounder, Fletcher became a certified reboundologist and started promoting this exercise at health fairs and conferences.
It was during one of these events that she was approached by a nurse from bauxite and alumina company JAMALCO, who expressed an interest in having her come to be a keynote speaker at the launch of their health and wellness programme in 2002. Following her presentation, she was offered a job as the company's corporate wellness coach. The initial contract for this post was six months, but Fletcher was able to exceed the company's expectations and ended up working with them for much longer.
"I was with them for four years, because we saw a significant reduction in cholesterol, weight, claims utilisation and blood pressure in some situations," she said.
Since that time, Fletcher has become a full-fledged wellness consultant and currently does consultancy for companies such as Red Stripe and Carib Cement. She was also employed by the Ministry of Health between 2005 and 2008 as a corporate wellness consultant. As a result of her work in wellness development, she was the recipient of an Environmental Health Foundation Award in 2008.
Fletcher says nutritionists face a number of challenges in carrying out their jobs today, and one of the biggest ones is that clients are not able to get insurance coverage for wellness services.
"It is one of the health professions that is in dire distress and in need in the country, because of what is happening. We have over two-thirds of our population now overweight or obese and over 50 per cent of the population not physically active, so you know it is just worsening," she said.
Fletcher did her first degree in biochemistry and her master's in nutrition, and for several years worked at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus in mental development and nutrition research. The mother of four then took some time so she could raise her children with her husband and assist in her family's furniture and construction business. It wasn't until after her bout with Graves' Disease that she went back fully into nutrition consultancy and started her company.
"It is engaging persons to recognise that there is a profit in being healthy," she said, in explaining the reason for the name of her company.
In addition to providing wellness advice, Fletcher also sources and sells fitness gadgets as part of her efforts to assist people to get on the road to better health.
"My vision was to make a significant impact on the health of this nation, the Caribbean and the world, and it still is," she said.