El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate event that originates in the Pacific Ocean but has wide-ranging consequences for weather around the world, and is especially associated with droughts and floods. The irregular occurrence of El Niño and La Niña events has implications for public health. On a global scale, the human effect of natural disasters increases during El Niño. The effect of ENSO on cholera risk in Bangladesh, and malaria epidemics in parts of South Asia and South America has been well established. The strongest evidence for an association between ENSO and disease is provided by time-series analysis with data series that include more than one event. Evidence for ENSO's effect on other mosquito-borne and rodent-borne diseases is weaker than that for malaria and cholera. Health planners are used to dealing with spatial risk concepts but have little experience with temporal risk management. ENSO and seasonal climate forecasts might offer the opportunity to target scarce resources for epidemic control and disaster preparedness.