Rural Alaska Natives Drink More Sugary Beverages Than Urban Residents
Many rural Alaska Natives are drinking more soda and drinks high in sugar, increasing their risk for diabetes, obesity and cavities, Anchorage Daily News reports.
According to a 2006 Alaska Health Department and Social Services survey, about one-third of rural toddlers in Northern and Southwest Alaska on an average day drink two or more cups of a high-sugar beverage, compared with 3% of toddlers in the rest of the state. Rural adults drink about three times as much soda daily as adults living in Anchorage and Fairbanks, another state survey found.
In addition, a recent Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium survey found that 30% of 200 households surveyed in three Yukon-Kuskokwim-area villages reported that they drink local treated water. Most said they did not like the taste, Daily News reports.
The consortium also reports that in about one out of five rural villages, fewer than 10% of the households have running water. State Rep. Mary Nelson (D) said, "Many of the villages that have highest soda pop consumption -- probably the majority -- don't have running water. Or if they do have running water, it's not drinkable." Nelson added that at some rural village stores, soda costs less than water.
Rex Wilhelm, president of rural retailer Alaska Commercial, said there has been a drop in soda sales as more people are choosing to buy energy drinks and flavored water -- which also are high in sugar. "People are trying to make more healthy choices," but the change is not coming quickly enough, he said.
Health officials have tried to encourage residents to drink more water and fewer sugary beverages to prevent the onset of certain diseases. In addition, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Alaska Native Health Board have asked schools to help reduce the sale of sodas and sugary drinks on campus. The consortium also launched a dental heath campaign, Daily News reports (Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, 7/20).