Malaria Likelihood Prediction By Effectively Surveying Households Using Deep Reinforcement Learning

by   Pranav Rajpurkar, et al.

We build a deep reinforcement learning (RL) agent that can predict the likelihood of an individual testing positive for malaria by asking questions about their household. The RL agent learns to determine which survey question to ask next and when to stop to make a prediction about their likelihood of malaria based on their responses hitherto. The agent incurs a small penalty for each question asked, and a large reward/penalty for making the correct/wrong prediction; it thus has to learn to balance the length of the survey with the accuracy of its final predictions. Our RL agent is a Deep Q-network that learns a policy directly from the responses to the questions, with an action defined for each possible survey question and for each possible prediction class. We focus on Kenya, where malaria is a massive health burden, and train the RL agent on a dataset of 6481 households from the Kenya Malaria Indicator Survey 2015. To investigate the importance of having survey questions be adaptive to responses, we compare our RL agent to a supervised learning (SL) baseline that fixes its set of survey questions a priori. We evaluate on prediction accuracy and on the number of survey questions asked on a holdout set and find that the RL agent is able to predict with 80 average. In addition, the RL agent learns to survey adaptively to responses and is able to match the SL baseline in prediction accuracy while significantly reducing survey length.


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