Neal A Palafox, MD, MPH

Neal A. Palafox, MD, MPH

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Associate Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
Full Member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Prevention in the Pacific), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center

Academic Appointment(s):
Professor, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Prevention in the Pacific), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
B.H. and Alice C. Beams Endowed Professor of Cancer Research
Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

MD, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
MPH, International Health, Johns Hopkins University


2014 - Comprehensive Cancer Control Champion Award, C-Change
2012 - LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. Award, Intercultural Cancer Council
2011 - Republic of the Marshall Islands Legislative and Presidential Conferring of Full Citizenship (Public Benefit Citizenship)
2004 - Susan Matsuko Shinagawa LiveSTRONGTM National Cancer Control Leadership Award, Intercultural Cancer Council

Research Focus

The last 30 years of Dr. Palafox's career has been focused on improving health capacity and health policy toward reducing health disparities in the populations of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the other U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island (USAPI) jurisdictions of the Territories of American Samoa and Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. This work has been done utilizing a community-based, participatory approach and developing key partnerships with health leadership, policy-makers and community advocates throughout the USAPI and with Micronesian communities in Hawaiʻi. These efforts have resulted in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded Comprehensive Cancer Control programs in each of the USAPI jurisdictions and the USAPI region, founding of the Cancer Council of the Pacific Islands (CCPI), the development of a Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry and in a Pacific Center of Excellence in the elimination of disparities in breast and cervical cancer in USAPI populations.

The Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry was developed in partnership with the Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry (a program of the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center) and the University of Guam (the minority institution partner in the National Cancer Institute U54 Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership grant).

Selected Publications

Ekeroma, A, Dyer R, Palafox N, Maoate K, Skeen J, Foliaki S, Vallely AJ, Fong J, Hibma M, Mola G, Reichhardt M, Taulung L, Aho G, Fakakovikaetau T, Watters D, Toliman PJ, Buenconsejo-Lum L, Sarfati D. (2019). Cancer management in the Pacific region: a report on innovation and good practice. The Lancet Oncology; Aug. DOI:

Sarfati D, Dyer R, Vivili P, Herman J, Spence D, Sullivan R, Weller D, Bray F, Hill S, Bates C, Foliaki S, Palafox N, Luciani S, Ekeroma A, Hospedales J. (2019). Cancer control in the small island nations: from local challenges to global action. The Lancet Oncology; Aug. DOI:

Palafox NA, Given L, Hohman K, Taitano JR, Hedson J, Buenconsejo-Lum LE, Gunawardane K, Baksa J, Reichhardt M. (2018). Comprehensive cancer control planning in the Pacific: the Cancer Council of the Pacific Islands a multi-national regional coalition. Cancer Causes Control; Dec:1-9. DOI: 10.1007/s10552-018-1115-z NIHMSID: 1001562 PMID: 30535525 PMCID: PMC6311141.

Palafox NA, Reichhardt M, Taitano JR, Nitta M, Garstang H, Riklon S, Taulung L, Buenconsejo-Lum LE. (2018). A Socio-Ecological Framework for Cancer Control in the Pacific: A Community Case Study of the US Affiliated Pacific Island Jurisdictions 1997-2017. Front. Public Health; Nov;6:313. DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00313 PMID: 30483488 PMCID: PMC6243120.

Nitta M, Navasca D, Tareg A, Palafox N. (2017). Cancer Risk Reduction in the US Affiliated Pacific Islands: Utilizing a Novel Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) Approach. Cancer Epidemiology; October; 50(Pt B):278-282. PMID: 29120837 DOI: 10.1016/j.canep.2017.08.008.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

N.A. Palafox, MPI; K. Kaholokula, MPI
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
U54GM138062 - Center for Pacific Innovations, Knowledge, and Opportunities (PIKO)
An NIH program that funds statewide or multi-state regional networks to: 1) develop infrastructure to conduct clinical and translational research, 2) develop investigators’ abilities to compete for NIH and other federal grants to address health conditions prevlent among medically underserved populations, and 3) collaborate with other IDeA institutions/organizations.
09/28/2021 – 08/31/2026

UH Cancer Center: N. Palafox, MPI; B. Hernandez, MPI
University of Guam: R. Leon Guerrero, MPI; M. Hattori-Uchima, MPI
National Cancer Institute
2U54CA143727-11 - (1/2) Pacific Island Partnership for Cancer Health Equity (PIPCHE)
09/28/2009 – 08/31/2025
Current segment start: 09/01/2020

N.A. Palafox, PI
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1 NU58DP006743 - Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH)
"Advancing and Sustaining Pacific Interventions to Reach Equity (ASPIRE)"
This project is designed to improve health, prevent chronic diseases, and reduce health disparities among peoples of the US Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI). ASPIRE will support culturally tailored strategies to address the preventable health behaviors of tobacco use and physical inactivity and create community-clinical linkages that will ultimately lead to reduced health disparities in chronic conditions of hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. The REACH project is being implemented in 5 jurisdictions: Guam, Federated States of Micronesia – Kosrae State, Federated States of Micronesia – Pohnpei State, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.

N.A. Palafox, PI
Parent grant held by Pacific Island Health Officers Association [Host: CDC's Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support (CSTLTS)]
Strengthening the Public Health System in US-Affiliated Pacific Islands: Pacific Against Cervical Cancer

N.A. Palafox, Project Advisor, L. Buenconsejo-Lum, PI
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1 U58 DP006312 - Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry (PRCCR) - CDC National Program of Cancer Registries, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
The major goal of this project is to maintain the Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry for the US Affiliated Pacific Island jurisdictions that will support and complement their jurisdiction and regional cancer control and chronic disease efforts. In addition to developing Regional polices and training specific to Cancer Registries, the project includes working with the jurisdictions' health information systems to improve health information management systems, death certification and quality improvement related to medical records. Other key partners include the Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry/University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center.
06/2017 - 06/2022

N.A. Palafox, PI
Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation
“Increasing Receipt of Cancer-related Services in Vulnerable Indigenous Pacific Populations: Strengthening local health systems and healthcare worker capacity”
This project aims to increase timely access to appropriate cancer-related services (screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, palliative care) by increasing health system-community coordination, outreach, and patient-centered engagement. This project creates a resource-appropriate telehealth network in four communities: Marshallese in Oceanview (Hawaiʻi Island), Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianna Islands, and American Samoa. Project activities include using telehealth to train local health care providers and community health workers, develop local expertise in case management with the guidance of Hawaiʻi-based specialty providers and developing the infrastructure to eventually support billable telehealth services in the USAPI. Lessons learned will be scalable to the Freely Associated States and to other geographically remote Pacific Island communities.
06/2018 – 05/2022