Global challenges to children’s health are rooted in social and environmental determinants. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) articulates the rights required to address these civil-political, social, economic and cultural determinants of child well-being. The principles of child rights—universality, interdependence and accountability—define the tenets of social justice and health equity required to ensure all rights accrue to all children, and the accountability of individuals and organisations (duty-bearers) to ensure these rights are fulfilled. Together, the CRC and child rights principles establish the structure and function of a child rights-based approach (CRBA) to child health and well-being—that provides the strategies and tools to transform child health practice into a rights, justice and equity-based paradigm. The 30th anniversary of the CRC is an opportune time to translate a CRBA to health and well-being into a global practice of paediatrics and child health.