Background: Japan strives to strengthen its development cooperation by mobilizing various resources to assist partner countries advance on Universal Health Coverage by 2030. However, the involvement and roles of various actors for health are not clear. This study is the first to map Japan’s publicly funded projects by both Official Development Assistance (ODA) and other non-ODA public funds, and to describe the intervention areas. Further, the policy implications for country-specific cooperation strategies are discussed. The development cooperation for health in Vietnam is used as a case in this study. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of the Japanese publicly funded health projects that were being implemented in Vietnam during December 2016 was conducted. A framework of analysis based on the World Health Organization six health systems building blocks was adopted. The projects’ qualitative information was also assessed. Results: Overall, 68 projects implemented through Japanese public funding were analyzed. These 68 projects under 15 types of schemes were managed by seven different scheme-operating organizations and funded by five ministries. Of these 44 (64.7%) were ODA and 24 (35.3%) were non-ODA projects. Among the recategorized six building blocks of the health system, the largest proportion of projects was health service delivery (44%), followed by health workforces (25%), and health information systems (15%). Almost half the projects were implemented together with the central hospitals as Vietnamese counterparts, which suggests that this is one area in which the specificities of Japanese cooperation are demonstrated. No synergetic effects of potential collaboration or harmonization among Japanese funded projects were captured. Conclusions: Several Japanese-funded projects addressed a wide range of health issues across all six building blocks of the health system in Vietnam. However, there is room for improvement in developing coordination and harmonization among the diversified Japanese projects. Establishing a country-specific mechanism for strategic coordination across Japanese ministries’ schemes can yield efficient and effective development cooperation for health. While Vietnam’s dependence on external funding is low, the importance of coordination across domestic actors of the donor countries can serve as an important lesson, especially in beneficiary countries with high external funding dependency.
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