Academy policy is determined by the Board of Directors and the Congress of Delegates. There are four vehicles by which Academy policy is articulated
When policy statements and position papers are under consideration, they are termed "draft" and become policy only when the Board of Directors or Congress of Delegates approves them.
The term policy statement is used to designate a straightforward statement or declaration of Academy policy on a particular topic or topics. Such statements usually are short and concise and do not include background information or discussion relative to the policy. A policy statement generally would not quote facts and figures developed by outside sources and would not utilize a bibliography.
The primary distinction between a policy statement and a position paper is that a position paper is far more comprehensive than a simple declaration of the Academy's policy on a particular topic or topics. A position paper does set forth the Academy's policy on one or more topics. However, as the term implies, a position paper also contains background information and discussion in order to provide a more complete understanding of the issues involved and the rationale behind the position(s) set forth. A position paper frequently cites outside sources and may include a bibliography.
In addition, documents are sometimes prepared which attempt to more fully explain specific issues. These documents are called discussion papers and are defined as follows:
A discussion paper may originate from various sources, including commissions/committees and staff, and is produced for the purpose of providing balanced information on a particular topic without espousing a particular Academy position. A discussion paper does not stand by itself as a statement of AAFP policy but may be used to formulate a policy statement or position paper.
Prior to April 1995, the Academy's nomenclature and definitions for policy documents were different from the above definitions. Accordingly, policy documents produced prior to April 1995 might not conform to the above definitions and would have been classified as policy statements, position statements or white papers.