Some of the most promising contributions on the global futures of ‘development’ and ‘rights’ have come from capabilities and justice perspectives on health. This paper discusses the contribution of capability theory to theorizing health justice and the right to health. It makes the case for a capabilities approach to the right to health and situates the relevance of this approach in the sociological and political context of global health reforms and the mobilization of health rights, looking towards a new global compact post-MDG. The paper explores major recent contributions on health capabilities which take capabilities theory closer to the struggles for global health and health justice. It explains the capabilities paradigm, outlines the shared basis with health rights and argues for its relevance to health reforms and the growing global health justice movement. The paper discusses the specific rights and entitlements of different vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and explains how the capabilities paradigm meets with recent turning points for global health. The capabilities approach offers conceptual and practical potential for a more just version of ‘global health’, linking normative, substantive and procedural claims for health justice and health rights. The paper also discusses some of the limitations of the capabilities approach and suggests how it may interact with other approaches to health rights, health governance, public goods and public health.