For Alaskan villagers, soda pop beats $9 milk, impure water

Years ago Alaska Native health officials declared war on sugary soda pop in rural towns and villages.

Pop is winning.

Nearly one-third of toddlers in rural Northern and Southwest Alaska have two or more cups of sugary drinks, such as regular soda, on an average day, according to a 2006 state Health Department survey.

That's true for only 3 percent of toddlers in the rest of the state. An earlier state poll showed adults in rural Alaska drink about three times as much pop a day as adults in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

"I couldn't imagine that it was even worse than it is today," said Troy Ritter, senior environmental health consultant for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

"When I go to the village store, sometimes there's not a lot there, but you always have soda pop."

It's clear-and-clean drinking water that can be hard to come by in rural homes. In about one out of five villages, fewer than 10 percent of homes have running water, according to the consortium.

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