Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Introduction: Timely identification of at-risk neonates (ARNs) in the community is essential to reduce mortality in low-resource settings. Tools such as American Academy of Pediatrics pulse oximetry (POx) and WHO Young Infants Clinical Signs (WHOS) have high specificity but low sensitivity to identify ARNs. Our aim was assessing the value of POx and WHOS independently, in combination and with machine learning (ML) from clinical features, to detect ARNs in a low/middle-income country.
Methods: This prospective cohort study was conducted in a periurban community in Pakistan. Eligible live births were screened using WHOS and POx along with clinical information regarding pregnancy and delivery. The enrolled neonates were followed for 4 weeks of life to assess the vital status. The predictive value to identify ARNs, of POx, WHOS and an ML model using maternal and neonatal clinical features, was assessed.
Results: Of 1336 neonates, 68 (5%) had adverse outcomes, that is, sepsis (n=40, 59%), critical congenital heart disease (n=2, 3%), severe persistent pulmonary hypertension (n=1), hospitalisation (n=8, 12%) and death (n=17, 25%) assessed at 4 weeks of life. Specificity of POx and WHOS to independently identify ARNs was 99%, with sensitivity of 19% and 63%,respectively. Combining both improved sensitivity to 70%, keeping specificity at 98%. An ML model using clinical variables had 44% specificity and 76% sensitivity. A staged assessment, where WHOS, POx and ML are sequentially used for triage, increased sensitivity to 85%, keeping specificity 75%. Using ML (when WHOS and POx negative) for community follow-up detected the majority of ARNs.
Conclusion: Classic screening, combined with ML, can help maximise identifying ARNs and could be embedded in low-resource clinical settings, thereby improving outcome. Sequential use of classic assessment and clinical ML identifies the most ARNs in the community, still optimising follow-up clinical care.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMJ Paediatrics Open