Global initiatives and recent G8 commitments to health systems strengthening have brought increased attention to factors affecting health system performance. While equity concerns and human rights language appear often in the global health discourse, their inclusion in health systems efforts beyond rhetorical pronouncements is limited. Building on recent work assessing the extent to which features compatible with the right to health are incorporated into national health systems, we examine how health systems frameworks have thus far integrated human rights concepts and human rights-based approaches to health in their conceptualisation. Findings point to the potential value of the inclusion of human rights in these articulations to increase the participation or involvement of clients in health systems, to broaden the concept of equity, to bring attention to laws and policies beyond regulation and to strengthen accountability mechanisms. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.