Appl Clin Inform 2021; 12(04): 910-923
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1735180
Research Article

A Semantic-Based Framework for Verbal Autopsy to Identify the Cause of Maternal Death

Muhammad I. A. Durrani
1   Department of Computer Science & IT, The University of Lahore, Lahore, Pakistan
Tabbasum Naz
1   Department of Computer Science & IT, The University of Lahore, Lahore, Pakistan
Muhammad Atif
1   Department of Computer Science & IT, The University of Lahore, Lahore, Pakistan
Numra Khalid
1   Department of Computer Science & IT, The University of Lahore, Lahore, Pakistan
Alessia Amelio
2   Independent Researcher, Cosenza (CS), Italy
› Author Affiliations


Objective Verbal autopsy is a technique used to collect information about a decedent from his/her family members using questionnaires, conducting interviews, making observations, and sampling. In substantial parts of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, many deaths are unrecorded. In 2017, globally pregnant women were dying daily around 810 and 295,000 in a year because of pregnancy-related problems, pointed out by World Health Organization. Identifying the cause of a death is a complex process which requires in-depth medical knowledge and practical experience. Generally, medical practitioners possess different knowledge levels, set of abilities, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, the medical negligence plays a significant part in further worsening the situation. Accurate identification of the cause of death can help a government to take strategic measures to focus on, particularly increasing the death rate in a specific region.

Methods This research provides a solution by introducing a semantic-based verbal autopsy framework for maternal death (SVAF-MD) to identify the cause of death. The proposed framework consists of four main components as follows: (1) clinical practice guidelines, (2) knowledge collection, (3) knowledge modeling, and (4) knowledge codification. Maternal ontology for the framework is developed using Protégé knowledge editor. Resource description framework application programming interface (API) for PHP (RAP) is used as a Semantic Web toolkit along with Simple Protocol and RDF Query Language (SPARQL) is used for querying with ontology to retrieve data.

Results The results show that 92% of maternal causes of deaths assigned using SVAF-MD correctly matched manual reports already prepared by gynecologists.

Conclusion SVAF-MD, a semantic-based framework for the verbal autopsy of maternal deaths, assigns the cause of death with minimum involvement of medical practitioners. This research helps the government to ease down the verbal autopsy process, overcome the delays in reporting, and facilitate in terms of accurate results to devise the policies to reduce the maternal mortality.

Data Availability

The data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on request and data will be provided after departmental permission.

Protection of Human and Animal Subjects

This article does not contain any dangerous studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Publication History

Received: 24 May 2021

Accepted: 17 July 2021

Article published online:
22 September 2021

© 2021. Thieme. All rights reserved.

Georg Thieme Verlag KG
Rüdigerstraße 14, 70469 Stuttgart, Germany