Obesity Prediction with EHR Data: A deep learning approach with interpretable elements

ACM Trans Comput Healthc. 2022 Jul;3(3):32. doi: 10.1145/3506719. Epub 2022 Apr 7.


Childhood obesity is a major public health challenge. Early prediction and identification of the children at an elevated risk of developing childhood obesity may help in engaging earlier and more effective interventions to prevent and manage obesity. Most existing predictive tools for childhood obesity primarily rely on traditional regression-type methods using only a few hand-picked features and without exploiting longitudinal patterns of children's data. Deep learning methods allow the use of high-dimensional longitudinal datasets. In this paper, we present a deep learning model designed for predicting future obesity patterns from generally available items on children's medical history. To do this, we use a large unaugmented electronic health records dataset from a large pediatric health system in the US. We adopt a general LSTM network architecture and train our proposed model using both static and dynamic EHR data. To add interpretability, we have additionally included an attention layer to calculate the attention scores for the timestamps and rank features of each timestamp. Our model is used to predict obesity for ages between 3-20 years using the data from 1-3 years in advance. We compare the performance of our LSTM model with a series of existing studies in the literature and show it outperforms their performance in most age ranges.

Keywords: Applied computing; Childhood obesity; Computing methodologies; Deep learning; Electronic health records; Health informatics; Long short-term memory; Neural networks; Temporal data; Transfer learning.