HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign for the Mid-Atlantic

Helping Municipal Leaders Create Healthy, Prosperous Communities

The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities & Towns Campaign provides free training and technical assistance to municipal leaders to adopt policies that make it easier for residents to eat better and move more.

The HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign is an initiative of The Institute for Public Health Innovation in partnership with the Maryland Municipal League and the Virginia Municipal League. 


Meet the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign Staff


The HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign is an initiative of the Institute for Public Health Innovation. The Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI) is a unique non-profit resource that builds partnerships across sectors and cultivates innovative solutions to improve health and well-being for all people and communities throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.  To learn more about IPHI, visit our website: www.institutephi.org


As a Program Manager for IPHI, Ms. DeFrancesco has worked closely with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services as well as with other community partners and stakeholders to assist with the coordination, development, implementation, and evaluation of the Healthy Montgomery Community Health Improvement Process. She has over twenty years of experience as a public health practitioner, researcher, and educator. Her work has included research and practice related to injury prevention, obesity prevention, the promotion of changes to the built environment to improve health and prevent injury, public health workforce development, the development and implementation of public health laws and policies, and the role of health professionals and community activists in public health advocacy. Ms. DeFrancesco has been involved in and sometimes led numerous coalition efforts aimed at creating safe and healthy communities for children and their families. Prior to joining IPHI, she served as the project director of a community-based initiative in an underserved, diverse community in rural New Mexico focused on environmental and policy change for the prevention of childhood obesity. The work addressed issues of hunger, poverty, health equity, and access to healthy foods and safe places to walk and play. Also of note and earlier in her career, she served as Executive Director of a small non-profit she co-founded, spearheaded a successful effort to advocate for passage of a city ordinance that requires safe playgrounds. In Baltimore City and County, she collaborated with community leaders, community-based non-profit organizations, and local, state, and federal government agencies to improve the safety of city and school playgrounds and routes to school. She has taught and lectured extensively on the topics of injury prevention and public health advocacy. Ms. DeFrancesco served on the faculty of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and on the faculty of the University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center. She has worked in a variety of other settings including a local health department and small and large non-profit organizations. She has a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law, a Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Susan can be reached at sdefrancesco@institutephi.org or 240-252-2016. 


mike royster, MD, MPH, FACPM

susan headshot

Dr. Mike Royster joined IPHI as Sr. Vice President in January 2013 and plays an integral role in the organizational, programmatic and operational development of IPHI.  He provides overarching direction and management support for several of IPHI’s largest initiatives, and is leading the cultivation of new relationships and initiatives across the region. 

Prior to joining IPHI, Dr. Royster was the Director of the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE). In this position, he oversaw Virginia’s state offices of minority health, rural health, and primary care. OMHHE advanced health equity by developing data tools, such as the Health Opportunity Index, to assess health inequities; improving access to quality health care and providers; developing and promoting community-based participatory initiatives; enhancing the capacity of VDH and its partners to promote health equity; and facilitating strategies to target the social determinants of health.  Dr. Royster also served as the Director of the Crater Health District headquartered in Petersburg, Virginia, overseeing public health programs and services for 5 counties and 3 cities with a combined population of 150,000.  Dr. Royster completed his undergraduate training at the University of Virginia, medical training at Duke University School of Medicine, and a residency in Public Health and General Preventive Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he also obtained a Master’s degree in Public Health. In addition, he completed the two-year W.K. Kellogg Health Scholars Program at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where he developed an initiative to address the health of African American men in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dr. Royster can be reached at mroyster@institutephi.org or 804-313-8880.


Julia groenfeldT, MA

As a Program and Communications Associate at IPHI, Julia supports implementation and outreach for the HEAL Cities & Town Campaign. Prior to joining IPHI, Julia worked on grant writing, communications, and program development at food access nonfits in Worcester, MA and Washington, DC. Julia previously worked at Nuestro Huerto, a small community-based urban farm in Worcester, MA where she was instrumental in leading garden-based educational programs for youth. While working as the Nuestro Huerto Garden Education Coordinator, Julia spearheaded fundraising and program development while writing and implementing curriculum as a component to her graduate thesis “Garden-Based Learning in Worcester, Massachusetts: Addressing Science and Health Curriculum Gaps through Summer Youth Programing.” During Julia’s graduate education, she held research positions at Clark University’s department of International Development Community and Environment as well as the Worcester Community Action Council, an umbrella agency for social service and economic development organizations in Worcester. Julia provided research and analysis on food-sector workforce development for a city-wide development grant in collaboration with the city’s Food Hub pilot project. While completing her undergraduate education, Julia was an Intern at DC Greens in Washington, DC. There she worked on communications and outreach for school garden programing in DC public schools and provided logistical support for food access and farmer’s market programs in the DC area. Julia earned her B.A. in International Development and Social Change and her M.A. in Community Development and Planning from Clark University. Julia can be reached at Jgroenfeldt@institutephi.org or 202-747-3455.