Can machine learning models predict maternal and newborn healthcare providers' perception of safety during the COVID-19 pandemic? A cross-sectional study of a global online survey

Bassel Hammoud, Aline Semaan, Imad Elhajj, Lenka Benova

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Background Maternal and newborn healthcare providers are essential professional groups vulnerable to physical and psychological risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This study uses machine learning algorithms to create a predictive tool for maternal and newborn healthcare providers' perception of being safe in the workplace globally during the pandemic. Methods We used data collected between 24 March and 5 July 2020 through a global online survey of maternal and newborn healthcare providers. The questionnaire was available in 12 languages. To predict healthcare providers' perception of safety in the workplace, we used features collected in the questionnaire, in addition to publicly available national economic and COVID-19-related factors. We built, trained and tested five machine learning models: Support Vector Machine (SVM), Random Forest (RF), XGBoost, CatBoost and Artificial Neural Network (ANN) for classification and regression. We extracted from RF models the relative contribution of features in output prediction. Results Models included data from 941 maternal and newborn healthcare providers from 89 countries. ML models performed well in classification and regression tasks, whereby RF had 82% cross-validated accuracy for classification, and CatBoost with 0.46 cross-validated root mean square error for regression. In both classification and regression, the most important features contributing to output prediction were classified as three themes: (1) information accessibility, clarity and quality; (2) availability of support and means of protection; and (3) COVID-19 epidemiology. Conclusion This study identified salient features contributing to maternal and newborn healthcare providers perception of safety in the workplace. The developed tool can be used by health systems globally to allow real-time learning from data collected during a health system shock. By responding in real-time to the needs of healthcare providers, health systems could prevent potential negative consequences on the quality of care offered to women and newborns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)63
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Machine Learning
  • Pandemics
  • Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

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