Bettie Huffard Paul, 56, a Washington resident for more than 30 years who was active in health organizations, died of cancer Monday at Georgetown University Hospital.

Mrs. Paul was born in New York City and grew up in Charlottesville, Va. She was a graduate of Mount Vernon Junior College, now Mount Veron College, in Washington.

She made her permanent home here in 1948 following her marriage to Norman S. Paul, a former assistant secretary of defense and undersecretary of the Air Force. Mr. Paul died last year.

Mrs. Paul was a former member of the boards of the Hospital for Sick Children and of the Multiple Sclerosis Association. She also was a member of the Woman's National Democratic Club, the Sulgrave Club and the Ladies Board of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Survivors include three daughters, Margot P. Kneeland of New York City, Mrs. George Peabody Gardner III and Jennifer B. Paul, both of Boston; a son, Norman S. Jr., of Washington; two sisters, Mrs. Charles E. Treman of Ithaca, N.Y., and Mrs. Carl H. Haffenreffer of Providence, R.I., and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Vincent T. Lombardi Cancer Research Center, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, 20007.