Checking in for The Check Up
29 July 2019
Take a sneak peek behind the scenes of TVNZ’s myth-busting health series, The Check Up, with co-presenter and FMHS senior lecturer, Dr Mataroria Lyndon.
Is vaping safe? Can the flu vaccine make you sick? How healthy are juice smoothies, really? These are just some of the everyday health questions answered in TVNZ’s new series The Check Up, on Monday nights until 9 September and available OnDemand.
The 10-part series has a group of doctor-presenters interviewing experts to skewer myths, clear up confusion and translate the best available evidence in fun, engaging ways.
For co-presenter Dr Mataroria Lyndon, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, that meant doing things he never thought he’d do while delivering lines in front of a camera – riding a bike, running on a treadmill, doing box-jumps, playing tennis, and – the old cliché – driving a car.
“You’ve got the camera guy, the sound guy in your face, and you’re driving the car and talking,” he laughs. “One time I was in the park talking about exercise and it was about to rain – you’ve got a whole crew and they’re waiting for you to deliver your piece to camera, there’s no autocue, and if you don’t get it right, everyone’s in the rain – talk about pressure!”
“It helped me reflect on my own position on things like vaping and nutrition, and how to communicate it. How you can, for example, communicate the potential benefits and harms of vaping in three minutes.”
Dr Lyndon (of Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Whatua and Waikato) had done some TV work before – on Māori Television’s R&R (talking about microbial resistance with the University’s Dr Siouxsie Wiles), and on 2kaha, targeted at Māori rangatahi. He was also involved in The Real Sex Talk – an online youth resource for schools. But this was next-level.
“We didn’t really know what we were in for,” he says. “We all just jumped and said, sure. There’s not a lot of health shows on TV generally, so to be able to be a part of some good health messaging, keeping it fun, factual and informative, that was really appealing. One of the challenges for public health is trying to continually engage with audiences and communities. Public health is all about keeping people well: prevention and supporting their wellbeing.”
Dr Lyndon gained his medical degree at the University of Auckland, going through the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS). He went on to do a masters in Public Health at Harvard University as a Fulbright and Frank Knox Scholar (he’s intrigued by the promise of big data and AI in health). He recently left his role as lead clinical adviser for Maaori health at Counties Manukau Health to work in Mahitahi Hauora primary health organisation in Whangarei.
Filming for the series involved a day a week for six months - “it takes a whole day to get a five-minute segment”. And then there was the post-production work recording voice-overs. A fact-checker reviewed all the research claims, and locations included parts of the University campus.
Among the experts who feature in the series are 16 researchers from the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and Faculty of Science, The Liggins Institute, the Centre for Brain Research, the National Institute of Health Innovation (NIHI), the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge (full list below). Co-presenter GP Dr Gareth Shalley is also a University alum.
Dr Lyndon says the experience has informed his own practice. “It helped me reflect on my own position on things like vaping and nutrition, and how to communicate it. How you can, for example, communicate the potential benefits and harms of vaping in three minutes.”
No plans yet for appearing on Dancing With the Stars, but he is hoping for a second season of The Check Up.
Our experts in The Check Up:
Episode 1: 8 July
Professor Chris Bullen, Director of The National Institute for Health Innovation
Episode 2: 15 July
Prof David Cameron-Smith, Liggins Institute
Aahana Shrestha, Doctoral Candidate
Carlene Newell de Jesus, Centre of Brain Research
Dr Kathy Peri, Nursing
Dr John Phillips, Principal Investigator of the Auckland Myopia Laboratory
Episode 3: 22 July
Dr David Welch, School of Audiology, University of Auckland
Episode 4: 29 July
Professor Sally Poppitt , Human Nutrition Research Unit
Associate Professor Lindsay Plank, Body Composition Laboratory
Dr Ben Albert, Liggins Institute
Episode 6: 12 Aug
Dr Andrew Collins, Academic Director, School of Optometry and Vision Science, Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences
Episode 8: 26 Aug
Dist Professor Ian Reid, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Episode 9: 2 Sep
Dr Angus McMorland, Auckland Bioengineering Institute
Episode 10: 9 Sep
BONES AND EXERCISE
Associate Professor Thor Besier, Auckland Bioengineering Institute
Brigid Ryan, Research Fellow (Curtis Lab), Centre for Brain Research and Department of Anatomy and Medical Imaging
Professor Maurice Curtis, Professor of Neuroscience, Head of Department, Anatomy and Medical Imaging, Deputy Director of the Human Brain Bank